TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- With all of the expansion talk, perhaps there is a higher league that wants Alabama? Or LSU?
Maybe Arkansas will be ready to step up to that level by season's end when LSU awaits. But for now, the Razorbacks have to improve in all phases before taking on potential new SEC member Texas A&M this week in Arlington, Texas.
Alabama scored on offense (three times), the kicking game (twice) and defense (once) to thump Arkansas, 38-14, before 101,821 Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide was more gifted in the trenches and controlled play up front in all areas.
To open the game, there was a 37-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to tight end Michael Williams on a fake field goal . Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson threw a pick six just 4:38 before halftime to return the momentum just after the Hogs had come up with a goal line stand.
The Tide came up with two big plays to win the third quarter by 21-7 to complete the rout.
The only whimper from the Hogs was Tyler Wilson's 19-yard touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton, a leaping grab among two Tide defensive backs. It was a wonderful play that best illustrates the kind of effort it took to beat a spectacular secondary.
The Hogs were hunkered down in a 10-7 game when Wilson threw the costly interception on a third-and-7 play from his own 23-yard line. He was looking for Greg Childs on an inside move, but it was too far in front of the split end. It went straight to cornerback DeQuan Menzie. The ball bounced into the air and Menzie gathered it in and sailed 25 yards for the score.
"I threw a crucial pick," Wilson said. "It was five minutes left in the half and we need to go score. But in that situation, if it's not there, I have to throw it away. It should have been 10-7 at halftime.
"It was supposed to be a slant to Childs. They brought pressure from the boundary. I knew I was going to have to get it out of my hands quick, but you can't do that right there."
Wilson was never sacked, but he was rocked several times. He took his share of hits and gave way to Brandon Mitchell in the fourth quarter. He finished with 22 of 35 for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilson's receivers were hammered on the underneath routes throughout the game and couldn't produce the big plays on yards after the catch that have been the guts of the 3-0 start.
"The Alabama is exactly what we saw on film," Wilson said. "I don't want to take anything away from them. They are good. But that's what we expected. They were exactly what we had seen on them.
"We just didn't execute well enough. We knew they would disguise coverages and play our underneath routes well. They would bring a guy down into a blitz and then bring another guy into the underneath coverage. They'd have a clicker to pick those up. We expected that."
Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee credited Wilson for taking some vicious hits, but he also said there were mistakes.
"We know Tyler is tough," he said. "We know he can take a hit. But we need him to do what he's coached to do. That's where he has to improve his focus."
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said, "Tyler had a nice series in the first quarter, but we didn't give him much help in either protection or in the running game. We also have to do a better job of getting open and making people miss after the catch.
"The one mistake he did make, the interception, really hurt. We should have gone into halftime in good shape.
"We do have to get open quicker and get the ball our of our hands quicker."
Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson didn't want to talk about the goal line stand that stopped three plays from the 1-yard line in the second quarter. He said there were too many big plays. Indeed, the defense was gashed in the air and on the ground.
"We couldn't stop the run," Robinson said. "When you don't do that, it makes the play-action game very tough. So they were able to do both.
"We couldn't stop their bell cow, (Trent) Richardson. We were turning down hits and we can't have that. We knew he was really good.
"Then we didn't do a very good job in the second half. We expect the defense to hold onto the rope if other areas are having trouble. We didn't."
The Hogs took some physical punishment. They lost end Tank Wright and cornerback Isaac Madison to injuries. True freshman Trey Flowers played for Wright. Greg Gatson took Madison's spot.
Defensive end Jake Bequette missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury.
"It hurts when you have guys out, but I'd rather talk about the ones who stepped up," Robinson said. "I thought the kids who filled in fought hard. They left it out there and that's all you can ask.
"We are a little depleted as far as depth, that's obvious. Trey did a great job.
"It was pretty clear that they went after us with their perimeter game. Then they ran it right up the gut. Then, the 61-yard screen pass to Richardson was really disappointing."
Petrino said he took the blame for the fake field goal early in the game. He said there was an opportunity to call a timeout when the Tide broke from the kicking formation to the shotgun with McCarron.
"It was well executed by them and not by us," Petrino said. "It's my fault (for not calling the timeout). It was a good play by Alabama."
Petrino credited Alabama throughout, but he also said the Hogs shot themselves in the foot.
"They are really good," he said. "They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides and beat us in all three phases. We knew they were really good on defense.
"But it was a combination of things. We wanted to run it, but we didn't.
"We had a goal of trying to always move forward and not have negative plays. That hurt us. We had the negative plays. They are good to do that. That hurt."
Wilson said the game plan was to execute "our quicks against their pressure." It never materialized.
"I know they are one of the top defenses in the country, but I think we are one of the top offenses," he said. "I think there were some things we left on the field today. Obviously, they showed what they can do on offense. We have to play better than that."
The Hogs worked on Alabama in the spring, summer and preseason. With so much effort put into the game, can they bounce back this week against Texas A&M.
"That will be the defining factor in this season," Wilson said. "We have to show maturity. We have to have leadership. We don't have any choice but to go play like crazy against A&M."
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