Alabama improved its record to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in Southeastern Conference games with the win at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. It was the third consecutive loss for Arkansas, which fell to 1-3, including 0-2 in the SEC. The Hogs were upset by Vandy in Fayetteville, 28-24, two weeks ago, and dismantled by USC, 70-17, last Saturday.
There had been speculation that Alabama players might be looking ahead. That wasn't very likely. But now all eyes will be on fifth-ranked Florida. The 20th-ranked Crimson Tide will host the Gators at 2:30 p.m. CDT next Saturday in a game that will be nationally telecast by CBS.
Last year in Fayetteville, Coach Houston Nutt's Razorbacks were throwing for the end zone late in the game, but that was just an attempt to run up the score against an out-manned Alabama team in a 27-10 Arkansas win.
This year it was Alabama that threw to the end zone late. With just over two minutes to play and Bama holding on to a 17-13 lead, the Tide was at the Arkansas five-yard line with a third down play. The call was for a run that would either score or set up a field goal opportunity. But after an Alabama time out, the Tide went to the line of scrimmage. Wide receiver D.J. Hall was left uncovered. Quarterback Brodie Croyle and Hall made eye contact, and Croyle snapped a pass to Hall in the end zone for the points that clinched the victory.
Arkansas was passing for the end zone as the game ended, but the effort was incomplete and Alabama had ended a two-game losing streak at the hands of the Razorbacks.
The Croyle-to-Hall combination also worked for Alabama's first touchdown. After a lethargic first quarter, Bama trailed by 3-0 on the strength of Hogs placekicker Chris Belseiro's 34-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
On a third-and-five play, Alabama split four men and the Razorbacks left the middle of the field open. Hall crossed and Croyle hit him. Hall showed uncharacteristic speed in sprinting away from the defense and completing a 43-yard touchdown play.
Alabama did not trail again.
It looked like Bama might have put the game away with a strong third quarter. Alabama has not allowed a point in the third period this year, and held the Razorbacks scoreless. But that wasn't all the defense did.
The offense didn't take great advantage of that opportunity, but Bama did get a 36-yard field goal from Jamie Christensen to extend the lead to 10-3.
Alabama didn't score another point in the third quarter, but the Crimson Tide did everything necessary to get a touchdown. When the third quarter ended, Bama was at the Arkansas two-yard line with a first-and-goal.
Kenneth Darby had 47 yards in the 78 yards gained before the end of the third quarter, but by now Darby knows that he needs to get it into the end zone, not close. Darby's final run of the quarter was a beauty, 24 yards to the two-yard line.
Darby got to stand on the sidelines and watch Bama's Jumbo Package of Tim Castille at halfback behind LéRon McClain get the touchdown. It took two plays, but with 14:15 to play Bama had a 17-3 lead and seemed in control to wrap up the win.
But not so fast! Arkansas' speedy halfback Darren McFadden went through a couple of missed tackles for 70 yards and a touchdown, a "drive" that took just 46 seconds.
On Bama's next possession, Jeremy Schatz–who had punted well–was victimized by a blocking miscommunication and had a punt blocked.
There is a long and inglorious history of SEC officials having a negative effect on Alabama in the series against Arkansas. Although it was not the fault of the officials, a penalty against Arkansas was of great benefit to the Hogs. On a third-and-eight play from the Alabama nine-yard line, Wallace Gilberry forced and fumble and Ryans (who had an outstanding defensive game with six solo tackles and nine assists) recovered for the Tide. But an Arkansas player had moved, a dead ball foul that was a five-yard penalty only. The Razorbacks kept the ball and got a 27-yard field goal that closed the margin to Alabama 17, Arkansas 13 with just under 10 minutes to play.
While that penalty helped Arkansas, both teams had penalties that were detrimental.
Bama was unable to keep the ball on its next possession and had to punt. But with 5:50 to play, the Tide got the ball back with Juwan Simpson turning in an interception at the Arkansas 40.
The Tide got it down to the Arkansas five-yard line with a 12-yard run to a first down by Darby. It looked like Bama might have to settle for a field goal when it was still five yards to go on third down, but the Razorbacks failed to cover Hall and Croyle's pass got Bama to the final margin of 24-13 with just over two minutes to play.
Arkansas made a good effort to drive down to the Alabama goalline, but the march resulted in no points, ran out the clock, and served merely to pad the Razorbacks' offensive sta