Alabama didn't have much offense against a tough Arkansas defense. The bad news for the Razorbacks is that 'Bama didn't need much offense.
The Crimson Tide returned a fumble for one touchdown and returned a pass interception for another TD to blast the Hogs, 31-10, before 83,818 Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama made just 249 yards in total offense, and lost the time of possession battle by 11 minutes. But, the Hogs couldn't take advantage of their 315 yards in total offense because of four turnovers.
"We improved, but we gave them too many gifts," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "We were good on defense and good in the special teams. We did a better job in the line, but because of the mistakes we couldn't win. We fought hard, and I was proud of that. We just made too many mistakes."
Nutt was miffed over one of the turnovers, a "bubble screen" pass that was batted backwards and ultimately ruled a lateral. It came just two plays after Jimmy Beasley's blocked punt gave the Hogs possession at the Alabama 28-yard line with the Tide clinging to a 17-10 lead midway through the third quarter.
Sorahan turned to throw for Richard Smith on the right sideline, but it was batted into the air and backwards by a blitzing linebacker. Sorahan stripped the ball away from an Alabama player and then relaxed thinking it was an incomplete pass. The ball was scooped up by an Alabama tackle, and returned to the Arkansas 38-yard line.
"It's designed to go up field, and I thought it was up field," Sorahan said. "When I knocked it out of the hands of the tackle, I thought the play was over. I think it should have been an imcomplete pass. I guess we'll have to see the film to know."
Nutt said, "We all thought it was incomplete. From where I was standing, I thought it was going to be an incomplete pass. I thought we were going to take it in there and make it a tie score. That was a big, big play."
Wide receiver George Wilson wasn't on the field, but he was looking at the play on a perfect line to see it develop.
"I would be willing to say I thought it was a forward pass," Wilson said. "I think it was a forward pass and not a lateral."
Alabama cashed that break on the next play when Tyler Watts hit Freddie Milons on a post/corner route for a 35-yard touchdown. It gave the Tide a 24-10 lead with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
Alabama's final score was a 60-yard interception return by Thurman Ward when Tarvaris Jackson tried to hit an out route.
Sorahan was injured on the lateral/fumble play when he was stepped on in the kidneys. Zak Clark came on for the next three series before Jackson finished up.
Both teams got a turnover in the first half that Alabama won, 14-10. The Tide's turnover gave the Hogs three points, while the Hogs gave up a swift seven points on their turnover.
Arkansas got the first one, a strip by Kenny Hamlin that Carlos Hall covered at the Alabama 36 on the game's second play. That led to a 22-yard Brennan O'Donohoe field goal for a 3-0 Arkansas lead.
Alabama responded with a 12-play, 80-yard march for a 7-3 lead with 3:56 to play in the first quarter. Most of the yardage came on straight ahead running by Ahmad Galloway. The big tailback rolled 11 yards on a draw play for the touchdown.
The Tide did not mount a true threat the rest of the half, making only two first downs in the last 18 minutes of the first half. But, they made it 14-3 when Cedric Cobbs was stripped from behind on his first carry, a fumble ‘Bama safety Reggie Myles scooped before racing 42 yards for a touchdown at the 4:41 mark of the second quarter.
Arkansas answered with its most impressive march of the season, a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive climaxed by Brandon Holmes' sweep around his left end from the 1-yard line. It came with 13 seconds left in the half.
Ryan Sorahan started the march with three completions of 5, 18 and 10 yards, the last two to George Wilson. After that, the Hogs turned it over to Holmes, the third UA tailback to play in the half. Holmes had a 17-yard draw, and sweeps of 7, 2, 7 and 8 yards before the TD run.
Arkansas outgained the Tide, 172-150, in total yards in the first half, and led in first downs, 10-8. The Hogs also led in time of possession, 16:46 to 13:14. Holmes carried 7 times for 45 yards, averaging 6.4 yards.
Alabama made it 17-10 early in the second half, taking advatage of two penalties in Arkansas' kicking game. The first was a block below the waist on the second-half kickoff which started the Hogs at their 11-yard line. The second was an interference penalty on a punt return that gave the Tide possession at the Arkansas 35-yard line.
Watts passed 23 yards to tight end Terry Jones on the first play to move the Tide to the Arkansas 12-yard line. 'Bama lost yards on its next three plays before Neal Thomas booted a 17-10 field goal.
Arkansas had several injuries in the game. Carlos Hall turned an ankle early in the first half. Sorahan sustained a bruised kidney. Backup linebacker Shane Collins suffered a torn ACL to his knee. Collins is most likely lost for the season.
Ryan Sorahan (10) passes against Alabama.
Houston Nutt (above) calls a play from the sideline.
Fred Talley (20) makes a cut.
Brandon Holmes (7) found a big hole on the right side behind Shawn Andrews (73) just before halftime.
Brandon Holmes (7) powers up the middle.
Photos by Tom Ewart