Big Plays Fall for Hogs

Alabama without Brodie Croyle was not the same team. Arkansas with Matt Jones was. The Crimson Tide didn't lose Saturday's game at Fayetteville because of having to play Marc Guillon at quarterback. The Hogs won because of the plays made by Jones. Although Bama was in the game until the final minutes, it was a disappointing 27-10 loss for Alabama.

Alabama is now 3-1 on the season and fell to 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play. It was Bama's first road game of the year. Arkansas, which has played all four of its games in the state of Arkansas, is now 3-1. It was the SEC opener for the Hogs.

Alabama continues in SEC play next week hosting South Carolina. The game from Bryant-Denny Stadium will kickoff at 5 p.m. CDT with national television coverage by the cable sports network, ESPN2. The Gamecocks of Coach Lou Holtz are 3-1 after beating Troy Saturday, including a 1-1 record in the conference.

Two plays that were a lot worse than they look on the statistics sheet were very harmful to Alabama's fourth quarter comeback chances. The first game on a pass from Guillon to Ray Hudson for big yardage into Arkansas territory that was called back for holding. The second was on a near-perfect punt by Bo Freelend that Bama's coverage team allowed to sneak into the end zone, allowing the Hogs to start at their 20 instead of inside the five.

It was following that punt that Arkansas went on its game-clinching drive. After Jones was sacked on first down, he made a nice run to a third-and-four at the Arkansas 26. And then he turned the corner on Bama's left defensive side–an area he exploited much of the day–for a 54-yard run that set up a seven-yard touchdown run by fullback Peyton Hillis for the clinching score with 3:02 to play. The extra point kick was missed, but the game had been decided.

"If you don't take the right approach angles to get him he'll outrun you," Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said. "He was outrunning our defensive backs who are pretty fast."

After Alabama was unable to move in its hurry-up offense, the Razorbacks tacked on an insult touchdown, a five-yard run by De'Arrius Howard, with 1:12 to play. The big play in that 23-yard drive was a 15-yard pass interference call against Alabama in the end zone. It was a bit surprising that Arkansas had its first offense in the game and passing at that point, which may have prompted a very brief post-game midfield meeting of Alabama Shula and Arkansas Head Coach Houston Nutt.

Alabama seemed to be taking control of the game in the first half. Arkansas had a long touchdown drive to start the game, but the defense had played reasonably well. A long pass with a fortuitous bounce off a Bama defender led to the Razorbacks' score–a touchdown reminiscent of a previous Alabama-Arkansas game and a preview of plays to come in this one in that Jones broke containment and ran in from six yards out to cap a nine-play, 79-yard drive.

Unquestionably the biggest play in the game-opening march was a long Jones pass into double coverage on a second-and-18 situation. That long yardage situation came from a Mark Anderson sack of Jones, the first time this season he had been caught. (Jones would be sacked three times on the day.) Bama's Roman Harper seemed poised to intercept, but the ball was tipped and caught by Cedric Washington for a 41-yard gain to the Alabama nine.

Alabama was plagued by a couple of turnovers in good field position. A Guillon pass was knocked out of Tyrone Prothro's hands and picked off by Arkansas a play after Bama's Harper had intercepted at the Alabama 47 in the first quarter and back-up halfback Kenneth Darby fumbled at the Arkansas 23.

Hudson, who had been injured last week and missed much practice this week, got Alabama on the board following an Arkansas punt to the Alabama 37. On first down, Hudson went around left end and down the sidelines untouched for a 63-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7.

Alabama took a 10-7 lead after a starting at the Tide 30 after another Arkansas punt. The drive stalled at the Arkansas 20, but Brian Bostick hit a 37-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead with only two minutes to play in the first half.

Arkansas had an excellent two-minute plan. The Razorbacks to two long runs, then worked it to the 22-yard line. Jones, under pressure, passed to the end zone to fullback Peyton Hillis at the goalline. Hillis caught it one-handed and held on despite a good hit, and the Razorbacks had a 14-10 halftime lead.

The two Arkansas scoring drives had accounted for 183 yards of total offense. The Razorbacks had a total of just one more yard, 184 yards, of offense in the first half. Alabama had 227 yards of total offense in the first half, 176 of it on the ground.

Guillon was starting his first game at Alabama and having his first meaningful college experience. He was bumped to first team when Croyle was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered last week.

"Marc played okay," Shula said. "He made a couple of plays and I just told him that now he's got to go and get better for next week than he was this week.

"We had an opportunity to have some big plays. If we hit on those, people don't say it's so one-sided."

"We beat ourselves," Shula said. We had opportunities in all three phases. We had some holding calls in crucial situations."

Alabama also played without freshman cornerback Simeon Castille, who suffered a knee injury in practice this week.

The final statistics were closer than the final score. Arkansas had 17 first downs to Alabama's 14. Bama had 46 rushes for 271 yards, Arkansas 49 runs for 211 yards. Jones hit seven-of-12 passes with one interception and one touchdown for 122 yards, while Guillon completed six-of-18 with one interception (the first given up by Bama this year) for 57 yards. Alabama lost a fumble, while the Razorbacks did not fumble the ball. Alabama was penalized five times for 50 yards, while Arkansas was flagged only once, for five yards.

Hudson rushed 20 times for 170 yards, an average of 8.5 yards per carry. Darby had 16 runs for 51 yards and Castille seven carries for 30. Hudson had two catches for 13 yards, Darby one for 14, and Prothro one for 13. Freelend averaged 41.3 yards per punt on six punts.


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