Tide squanders lead, falls to Arkansas

The game that seemed would never get started turned into the game that seemed would never get over, After a thunderstorm around Bryant-Denny Stadium delayed the start of the game for over an hour, Alabama and Arkansas couldn't get the issue settled in regulation, or even in one overtime. But in two overtimes a mistake-plagued Alabama had squandered an important football game, losing 34-31.

Although Arkansas was clearly the superior team, an extraordinary third quarter had Alabama in the driver's seat. However, Arkansas scored the game-tying touchdown with 27 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, then followed a missed Bama field goal with a successful three-pointer to defeat the Crimson Tide.

Alabama thus finishes a five-game season-opening homestand with a disappointing 2-3 record. And now Bama must go on the road to take on 12th-ranked Georgia in Athens. Alabama fell to 1-1 in Southeastern Conference games. It was the first SEC game for the ninth-ranked Razorbacks, who are now 4-0.

Alabama seemed to have an excellent chance to win the game in the first overtime when Bama stopped Arkansas on its offensive opportunity. However, after the defense made its stop, Bama was hit with an excessive celebration penalty, meaning Bama had to start from the Arkansas 40 instead of the 25. The Tide got one first down and moved to the Razorbacks' 22. But Brian Bostick, who had connected on a career-long 48-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 on the final play of the first half, was wide left on the 29-yard attempt that would have won the game.

In the second overtime Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle was intercepted to end the Alabama series. Arkansas then pounded the Tide on the ground until the ball was on the three-yard stripe the spot from where extra point snaps are made. Chris Balseiro, who had been given a battlefield promotion to place-kicker after regular kicker David Carlton missed two field goal tries in the first half, was good on the winning 19-yard effort.

It was obvious from early in the game that Alabama's defense could not stop the Arkansas running game. However, the Alabama offense warmed up for a few minutes in the third quarter in dramatic fashion, and for most of the second half it seemed as if the Crimson Tide might get the upset win.

The kind of gutsy call that frequently wins big games put Alabama ahead in the first minute and a half of the third quarter. Facing third down and a short one-yard for a first down, everyone expected a power play in the middle. But Bama had Croyle throwing, and Dre Fulgham was far beyond any Arkansas defenders. He took the pass and raced to the end zone.

Much had been made of Alabama's defense not having a takeaway since the first half of the opening game. The Tide got a big one a few moments later in the third quarter when Anthony Madison, who had been picked on much of the night, made his own pick, intercepting at midfield and returning the ball 29 yards to the Arkansas 23. Three plays later Croyle connected with Fulgham again, this time a 12-yard touchdown and a 24-10 Alabama lead.

A year ago in Fayetteville, Shaud Williams opened the game with an 80-yard touchdown run and Alabama went on to a 30-12 win. Saturday Williams got the ball at the 20 and went up the middle for 80 yards and a touchdown that gave Alabama a 31-10 lead.

Alabama had scored three touchdowns and used only 3:43 of clock time. Arkansas finished the game with some 13 minutes more possession time than Alabama, 36:44 to 23:16.

More important than clock time, Alabama shut its offense down. Following Williams' run, Alabama managed only two first downs – one in the fourth quarter and one in the first overtime. Alabama also fell down in special teams play insofar as kicking. In addition to the missed field goal, punter Bo Freelend managed only a 33.8 yard average. And Arkansas' comeback was helped along by Freelend having one punt for 20 yards and one for 26 yards.

While the Alabama defense turned in four take-aways – interceptions by Madison, Charlie Peprah, and Charles Jones and a fumble caused by Antwan Odom and recovered by Juwan Garth -- the Tide had two costly turnovers. With a 31-17 lead and under 10 minutes to play, the Alabama offense had the ball with a chance to run some clock. But on first down the Tide through an incomplete pass and on second down Williams fumbled. Bama had used only 12 seconds and Arkansas had the ball at Bama's 32. It took only two plays for the Razorbacks to pull within a touchdown with plenty of time to play.

In addition to the 15-yard celebration penalty in the first overtime, Alabama had other very costly penalties. When the score was 31-10, the Razorbacks were facing third and five at their own 29. Far away from the play an Alabama defensive back was called for a personal foul. That helped the Razorbacks to a 12-play, 87-yard drive. On the final play of the third quarter, Arkansas had a nice pass to the Alabama 27.

Early on, it looked like Bama might be still in the funk of last week's Northern Illinois game. The Tide was shredded by Matt Jones and Cedric Cobbs with Jones running 39 yards to a touchdown on the Hogs' first offensive series. Jones would finish with 10 completions in 17 attempts for 123 yards. But more damaging to Alabama was Arkansas figuring out that Tide defenders could not cope with the Razorbacks' running game. Cobbs rushed 36 times for 198 yards. He was never caught for lost yardage.

Arkansas dominated statistically with 28 first downs to Alabama's 17. Arkansas had 61 rushes for 289 yards, Alabama 31 rushes – 30 fewer than Arkansas – for 158 yards. Arkansas completed 16 of 27 passes for 202 yards, Bama 15 of 32 for 226 yards. The Hogs had 88 plays for 491 yards, an average of 5.6 yards per play. Bama, with two plays accounting for 151 yards, had 63 plays – 25 fewer than Arkansas – for 384 yards. 6.1 per play. Arkansas converted eight-of-17 third down conversions and one-of-two fourth down plays, while Bama was good on only four-of-13 on third down, but made its only fourth down try.

Croyle was injured late in the first half, suffering a left shoulder separation. He was able to return in the second half and said it was his decision to go back to action. While Croyle was good on 12-of-25 passed for 204 yards, Spencer Pennington came into the game late in the second quarter and completed three of seven passes for 22 yards, helping Bama get into position for Bostick's field goal that tied the game at 10-10 at intermission. In addition to the two touchdown passes to Fulgham, Croyle hit on a 16-yard first quarter touchdown pass to Triandos Luke that tied the game at 7-7.

Williams rushed 19 times for 135 yards. Luke had six catches for 60 yards, Brandon Greer four for 39. Fulgham had two for 83 and Ray Hudson two for 35.

Alabama had one new starter Saturday as Kyle Tatum started at defensive tackle in place of Ahmad Childress, who did not play in the game for what Tide Head Coach called "injury-related" problems. Dominic Lee, a freshman defensive tackle, also saw his first playing time at Alabama and was in on 51 plays. Wide receiver Tyrone Prothro played for the first time, seeing action on one play – an end-around that gained nothing. Pre-season All-America guard Justin Smiley, who had missed two games with a foot injury, returned to start.

DeMeco Ryans led Alabama defensively with 12 primary tackles (including one for s five-yard loss) and six assists. Roman Harper was in on 15 tackles, Peprah 12, and Freddie Roach and Derrick Pope 10 each.

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