Explosive Plays Power Tide Win

With Arkansas bringing one of the nation's premier quarterbacks to Bryant-Denny Stadium, there was reason to expect offensive fireworks Saturday afternoon. Perhaps unexpected was that Alabama would be providing the big offensive plays. The Crimson Tide crushed the Razorbacks, 35-7, in the Southeastern Conference opener for Bama.

Alabama won its 10th consecutive game in Bryant-Denny Stadium and improved its record to 4-0. The Tide is ranked third in the nation. Arkansas lost its second consecutive SEC game and is now 1-2 overall and 0-2 in conference play.

Alabama continues in SEC play next week. The Tide goes to Kentucky for a game that will be televised on the SEC Network beginning at noon EDT (11 a.m. central time).

Final Stats:

It was expected the game would be a battle of strengths—the high-powered Arkansas offense against Alabama's crushing defense. Alabama won that battle, holding the Razorbacks to 254 total yards. Arkansas was able to convert only two of 14 third down conversions.

Alabama's Greg McElroy won the battle of high-profile quarterbacks. Arkansas's Ryan Mallett was leading the nation in passing efficiency and had set Arkansas records for passing yards in a game (408) and touchdown passes in a game (five) in his second outing last year. Against Bama he completed only 12 of 35 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked three times—twice by cornerback Javier Arenas--, hurried eight times, and suffered the only interception he has given up this year.

McElroy completed 17 of 24 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns and also had a key five-yard gain on a quarterback draw for a first down to keep a touchdown drive alive. He was sacked only once, hurried only twice.

Alabama's running game was not over-powering. Freshman Trent Richardson was top man with nine carries for 65 yards.

The game came with a cost. Sophomore linebacker Dant'a Hightower suffered a knee injury and Alabama Coach Nick Saban said "It doesn't look good."

Alabama could not have been more lethargic in the first quarter, two first downs and 31 yards of offense. The Bama defense, however, had Arkansas throttled. And when the offense woke it, it did so in dramatic fashion.

Bama's offensive production began with two electrifying touchdowns in the second quarter. While most Alabama scoring came off explosive plays, the rout of the Razorbacks was finished with a methodical 99-yard drive.

The teams were locked in a 0-0 yawner going into the second quarter. On a second-and-five at the Alabama 48, freshman tailback Trent Richardson took a pitchout at right end. It appeared he'd gain a few yards, but Richardson always gets more than it looks like he should. This time he got a lot more. Three tacklers bounced off Richardson, another couldn't hold on, and the fifth and final Razorbacks defender with a chance flagged at Richardson as he went 52 yards to the touchdown. Leigh Tiffin kicked the extra point to make it 7-0 with 9:30 to play in the second quarter.

The Richardson run completed a six-play, 86-yard drive that included a 14-yard run by Mark Ingram on second and 13 and a Greg McElroy pass of 14 yards to tight end Colin Peek.

It was reasonable to expect offensive shenanigans from Arkansas and the brilliant offensive head coach of the Razorbacks, Bobby Petrino. But it was Alabama that came up with the razzle dazzle. After a nice 18-yard punt return by Javier Arenas to midfield, Alabama went to its Wildcat formation with McElroy split wide and Ingram at Wildcat. The ball was snapped to Ingram who gave it to wide receiver Darius Hanks running from right to left. Hanks then pitched it to McElroy, going left to right. McElroy planted and passed to a wide open Julio Jones.

It was Jones first reception since the Florida International game. McElroy had made sure of the completion by throwing the ball high and short. Jones made the catch and pulled away from a defender to complete the 50-yard play and give Alabama a 14-0 halftime lead.

Alabama had several bad penalties in the punting game, none worse than one of two block-in-the back calls against Cory Reamer. One of those wiped out a long return by Javier Arenas that would have given Bama first and goal with a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Late in the second quarter Bama was going to attempt a fourth-and-one with less than a minute to play and fourth-and-one at the Arkansas 35, but Bama didn't get the play off in time, Freshman Dre Kirkpatrick had a penalty on punt coverage, premature contact with the return man, that gave the Razorbacks good field position on their first possession of the second half.

Arkansas took advantage of the field position marching to a quick touchdown. Ryan Mallett, who had been held to 7-21 passing for 74 yards in the first half (in part because of some drops by Razorbacks receivers), completed 5-55 2:17 18-yard Mallett to Greg Childs. Alex Tejada's extra point cut the Alabama lead to 14-7.

It took Alabama 20 seconds to answer. After a kickoff return to the 20, McElroy connected with Marquis Maze down the right sidelines. Maze made the catch in spite of good coverage by Arkansas's Rudell Crim, then eluded Crim and outran the rest of the Razorbacks for an 80-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 10:25 to play.

While Alabama had some problems in the punting game earlier, midway through the third quarter the Tide got an excellent play from defensive end Lorenzo Washington. Arkansas ;punter went to a rugby-style, running towards the line of scrimmage, and Washington blocked the punt, giving Bama the ball at the Razorbacks' 35-yard line. McElroy to Jones was good for 15 and a first down at the Arkansas 19. Three plays later McElroy tossed a swing pass to Ingram and Ingram ran it in from 14 yards out. Maze took out two Razorbacks with a block at the goalline. It was 28-7 with just under six minutes to play in the third quarter.

Alabama would get the ball one more time in the third quarter, but it wasn't in the best of circumstances. Arkansas downed a punt inside the Alabama one-yard line, more than 99 yards from the end zone, with 4:40 remaining in the quarter. The Tide used that 4:40 and more. Alabama went 99 yards in 13 plays with Ingram running in at right end untouched for the touchdown. Alabama had extended its lead to 35-7 with 13:12 remaining in the game.

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