Tailback DeCori Birmingham winced from across the room because of a hip pointer sustained in the first half, but still shared plenty of jokes with linebacker Pierre Brown.
Meantime, a few other Hogs laughed while right tackle Zac Tubbs answered questions about beating Alabama, the team from his home state.
It has been awhile since Arkansas' locker room sounded so ecstatic after a big game in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Freshman running back Peyton Hillis scored the game-winning touchdown with an acrobatic, one-handed catch late in the first half and added the game-breaker with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, helping Arkansas to a 27-10 win against Alabama on Saturday. The Hogs (3-1, 1-0 in Southeastern Conference) kicked off their SEC season in front of 72,543 by recording their biggest victory in Fayetteville since a 42-17 win against then-No. 17 Auburn back in 2001.
But quarterback Matt Jones said this one was more important.
"This might be the biggest game we've won here since I've been here," Jones said. "To start off 1-0, be 3-1 when a lot of people said before the season started we'd be 1-3 or 2-2 ... We're definitely happy and excited to be 3-1 right now."
The win helped Arkansas temporarily bury a three-year stretch where it won only four times in nine SEC games in Razorback Stadium. One of those losses came to Alabama in 2002 (30-12), but the Hogs earned much-needed revenge with dates at No. 16 Florida, at No. 9 Auburn and against No. 3 Georgia coming up next month.
Arkansas produced lengthy scoring drives on its first and last possessions of the first half and added two more in the fourth quarter to hold off the Tide (3-1, 1-1). The 17-point margin of victory was much closer than the final score indicated.
"It was a heavyweight battle," said tailback De'Arrius Howard, who replaced Birmingham in the second half and rushed for a team-high 64 yards on 21 carries. "But we got the knockout."
The Hogs were locked in a field position battle with the Tide throughout the second half. They finally broke through with the help of Alabama receiver Ezekial Knight, who watched a fourth quarter punt roll into the end zone after having a chance to down it at the 1-yard line.
Instead, the Hogs sealed the game with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ate 6 minutes, 12 seconds off the clock.
Jones recorded the game-changing 50-yard run that moved Arkansas deep into Alabama territory. Hillis also picked up a two-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from the Alabama 16 to keep the drive moving. He later capped it with a 7-yard score spinning score up the middle that gave Arkansas a 20-10 lead (Chris Baliseiro missed the PAT) with 3:02 left.
"It was good that when it came down to it, we made plays when we had to," said Arkansas cornerback Michael Coe who twice had to have his left ankle wrapped.
The run-oriented Crimson Tide kept Arkansas off-balance most of the game, but was forced to pass from there. Starter Marc Guillon, who replaced injured Brodie Croyle this week, couldn't help Alabama move the chains and finished 6 of 18 passes for 57 yards with an interception. He had passed only seven times for Alabama previously.
Before that, the SEC's top ground game rolled up yards against Arkansas behind massive left tackle Wesley Britt and left guard Evan Mathis. Ray Hudson, Kenneth Darby and fullback Tim Castille took turns rushing for 176 yards in the first half and 271 for the game.
"If you run for more than 300 yards, I'd expect to have more than 10 points on the board," said Hudson, who rushed for 170 yards on 20 carries.
But Alabama's only big play came in the second quarter, when Hudson raced around the left end and sideline to score a 63-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-all.
The ground game also helped the Tide take a 10-7 lead late in the first half when kicker Brian Bostick split the uprights with a 37-yard field goal with 2:01 remaining.
The lead was short-live.
Arkansas' offense, which gained 21 yards on its previous five possessions in the first half, moved into hurry-up mode and pushed the ball downfield.
Birmingham kicked off the drive with 21- and 11-yard carries. Jones found 6-foot-6 freshman receiver Marcus Monk for a 19-yard gain on the next play. Two more running plays gave Arkansas a first-and-10 at Alabama's 18.
Hillis broke out of the flat on a passing play called "K-4" that was designed to hit him out of the backfield. Jones rolled right, avoided a defender and flipped the ball toward the goal-line. The freshman reached out his right hand and snagged the ball between Alabama cornerback Eric Gray and strong safety Charlie Peprah.
All three players collided in the end zone, but Hillis was the only player left standing for an 18-yard touchdown. The score, on Arkansas' last possession of the first half, capped a 6-play, 84-yard drive that spanned 1:12.
"Peyton made a super catch," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, who now is 4-3 against Alabama. "That was phenomenal. Great concentration. He knows he's going to take a hit, but he's a tough guy.
"He's really beyond his years in maturity as far as a physical, physical freshman."
Hillis finished with 10 carries for 34 yards and a touchdown. He also caught 2 passes for 24 yards and a touchdown and has scored seven times in his first four Arkansas games.
"I had only 58 yards, but I will take that any time if I can help us win," Hillis said.
Jones scored Arkansas' first touchdown on a 6-yard run in the first quarter and claimed the school record for career touchdown responsibility. He passed Clint Stoerner on the school's all-time list and has been responsible for 64 touchdowns in his career (20 rushing, 44 passing).
Jones completed 7 of 12 passes for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed for 60 yards on 9 carries.
The Crimson Tide held Arkansas to 333 yards, well below its average in the first three games (525.7), but left Fayetteville with a disappointing road loss. Alabama was plagued throughout by costly miscues that wiped out big plays, killed drives or led to bad field position in a tight game.
Knight's special teams error gave the Razorbacks much more breathing room on their decisive touchdown drive. Darby also lost a fumble in the first half at the Arkansas 23. Guillon found Hudson for a screen pass in the fourth quarter that moved the ball deep into Arkansas territory, but it was wiped out by a holding call.
"We had big plays, but penalties helped stall some drives," said Alabama coach Mike Shula. "There were so many things that changed the momentum of this game -things like penalties and field position. We didn't do good enough in the fourth quarter."
Arkansas improved to 43-3 under Nutt when leading after three quarters and now stares at its first road game at Florida, which beat Kentucky 20-3 at home on Saturday.
But the Hogs enter the game with plenty of confidence, especially after recording a big win to keep pace with No. 9 Auburn (2-0) in the Western Division standings.
"We haven't gotten a big win here since I've been here," said Brown, who recorded five tackles. "We started SEC (play) on the right foot. Now we pretty much control our own destiny and everybody's chasing you.
"It feels great to get a quality win at home."
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