Washington Punt Block Was Big
Alabama defensive end Lorenzo Washington was just doing his job when he made a play that snuffed out any chance Arkansas might have had Saturday. Bama was en route to a 35-7 victory over the Razorbacks in Bryant-Denny Stadium, but Arkansas had shown signs of life in the third quarter. Bama used a couple of big plays to take a 14-0 halftime lead. Both teams had scored a touchdown in the third quarter, the Razorbacks on a nice drive, the Tide on another big play.
Midway through the third quarter, Alabama's defense forced a punting situation for Arkansas.
One thing Alabama opponents have in their scouting reports is that it's dangerous to punt to the Crimson Tide's Javier Arenas. Arkansas was punting from midfield and didn't want Arenas to have a chance to give Bama good field position after Dylan Breeding's punt.
Breeding went to the rugby style. Rather than the normal two step punt, Breeding began running to the right. (A new rule this year eliminates the roughing the punter protection for a man who begins the rugby run.) Breeding intended to buy a little time, then hit a slightly sidewinder type punt, usually low and designed to hit the ground and roll, discouraging a runback.
Washington knew what he had to do when Breeding began his move.
"When I saw him start to run I thought it was probably a rugby punt," Washington said. "My job is to contain him, to make sure he kicks it. And he did."
Washington said he understands why teams are looking for solutions to the Arenas problem. "Javy can bring it back to the house anytime," Washington said.
Washington raised his arms and took the punt on his left forearm.
Washington said he was looking for the ball and couldn't find it. "Finally I saw Upshaw (linebacker Courtney Upshaw) trying to get it, and they got it. I went running over to try to make the tackle and someone cracked back on me.
"I was glad I ha done my job and I was glad that we got good field position out of it. And I was really glad we scored."
Alabama took advantage of that blocked punt to get another touchdown and extend the lead to 28-7.
Washington was pleased by the job of the defense against Arkansas and its quarterback, Ryan Mallett. "They have a great quarterback and great skill players," Washington said. "I don't know what their stats were today, but I know they are going to be better in a lot of games and they are going to have some good wins.
"We tried to push the pocket and make him throw the ball before it was ready. He's a pocket passer, so we also wanted to try to push him out of the pocket. We thought he wouldn't be as comfortable if he was having to throw on the run.
"We did our job for 60 minutes and came out on top."
Alabama held Mallett, who came into the game leading the nation in passing efficiency, to 12-35 passing for 160 yards with one touchdown. Bama sacked him three times and he was intercepted for the first time this year.
With the win, Alabama improved to 4-0. The Tide is ranked third in the nation. It was the Southeastern Conference opener for Bama.
Alabama plays at Kentucky Saturday. Washington said, "Every SEC game is important. Last year down here the game against Kentucky came down to the end of the game. They have speed. They will be at home. And we know they would like to knock off a top-ranked team."
Kickoff will be shortly after noon EDT (11 a.m. central time) with regional television coverage on the SEC network.
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