Alabama continues in SEC play next week with the Crimson Tide hosting Georgia at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff will be shortly after 2:30 p.m. CDT with national television coverage by CBS. Georgia, ranked among the nation's top 10 teams, defeated New Mexico State, 41-10, Saturday.
Alabama has now won eight of its last nine games, going back to last season, and has won 11 consecutive SEC openers.
Alabama went into Saturday night's game without starting quarterback Tyler Watts, who was injured early in last week's game. Redshirt freshman Brodie Croyle got his first start at quarterback and had an excellent outing. Croyle completed 12 of 24 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns.
The game was not without expense. A week ago Bama lost tailback Ahmaad Galloway for the season and Watts for at least the remainder of last weelks game and this week's contest. (In pre-game remarks for ESPN, which televised the game, Bama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said Watts could play if needed.) Against Arkansas, it appears Bama has two senior starters with knee injuries. Lane Bearden, Bama's punter and kickoff man, and center Alonzo Ephraim were injured against the Hogs. Because of the injury to Bearden, Alabama placekicker Michael Ziifle had to take over Bearden's duties. That was probably the reason Bama took an intentional safety late in the game when having to kick from the end zone in the final moments.
Ironically, while Ziifle was taking Bearden's place, Brian Bostick did Bama's placekicking and hit three of four field goals and three extra point kicks. Bostick's only miss was late in the game after the issue had been decided.
As many expected, it was Alabama's line strength that proved to be the difference. Alabama's offensive front was better than Arkansas's defensive line, and Bama's defensive line was able to defeat the Razorbacks.
Alabama never trailed in the game. Bama opened up a 17-0 first quarter lead and led 17-7 at halftime. Despite having two touchdowns nullified by penalties, the Tide was pretty much in control all night.
Following the first-play explosion by Williams to give Bama a 7-0 lead, Croyle took the Tide to a 14-0 lead with the first of his two touchdown passes, a 28-yarder to Sam Collins to cap an 80-yard drive. Bostick's 28-yard field goal made it 17-0. The Razorbacks scored a touchdown on a broken play to close within 17-7 before halftime.
Alabama got a personal foul after the first half ended, which meant the Tide had to kick off from its own 20. The resulting good field position for the Razorbacks helped the Hogs to a field goal and closed the gap to 17-10 early in the third quarter.
Although a penalty negated an apparent Croyle to Dre Fulgham touchdown pass, the Tide got another field goal from Bostick, a 36-yarder, to get out to a 20-10 lead.
Arkansas was threatening at the Alabama 20 early in the fourth quarter when linebacker Derrick Pope stepped in front of an Arkansas pass and intercepted it. He returned it 61 yards to the Arkansas 20. A few plays later Bostick kicked Bama to a 23-10 lead.
Bama closed out Crimson Tide scoring and any faint hopes Arkansas may have had when Croyle hit Zach Fltecher on a 50-yard touchdown pass and a 30-10 lead with 9:41 to play.
Although Arkansas came into the game as the nation's top defensive team, that was faulty statistical information since the Razorbacks had played only a couple of creampuffs. They won't be the top defensive team in the nation statistically this week. And a record crowd of over 73,000, the most ever to see a sporting event in the state of Arkansas, witnessed the Bama victory.
Alabama had 21 first downs to Arkansas's 13. Bama had 267 rushing yards and two men who rushed for over 100 yards against the Raxzorbacks. Combined with Croyle's 285 passing yards, Bama abused the Arkansas defense for 552 yards. Arkansas had a fair offensive game against Alabama with 299 yards, 172 rushing and 127 on 8-of-29 passing. Bama had more than a nine minute advantage in time of possession, 34:38 to 25:22.
In addition to his 11 rushes for 119 yards, Williams also had two pass receptions for 89 yards. Santonio Beard had 21 carries for 136 yards and had a 10-yard touchdown run nullified by a holding penalty. Dre Fulgham had four catches for 72 yards. Tight end Donald Clarke had two catches for 29 yards. Sam Collins had two catches for 34 yards and one touchdown, Zach Fletcher one catch for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said, "It's always tough to come to Arkansas and play. Our kids were very physical during the game."
He said Shaud Williams' first play heroics "was big." He said it wasn't the deciding play, but was important to get Alabama off to a 7-0 lead.
Franchione had praise for Croyle, who had no turnovers. He also mentioned others -- Ziifle and center J.B. Closner -- for stepping in where needed.