TUSCALOOSA, Ala - The University of Arkansas football team salvaged some pride - especially defensively - here on Saturday afternoon, but just waited too long to get going offensively to upset unbeaten and No. 20 Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Senior quarterback Brodie Croyle threw two touchdown passes to D.J. Hall and Tim Castille ran for another while the Crimson Tide's defense kept the Arkansas offense in check early on while downing the Razorbacks 24-13.
"I loved the way our defense came back and responded (after a 70-17 loss at USC last week)," Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said afterwards. "We played with a lot of heart, but just disappointed in things like illegal procedure. We stopped ourselves on offense at critical times. We had a chance to win the ballgame, but you have got to execute."
Arkansas (1-3, 0-2) - which outgained Alabama 316-298 in total offense - did make it interesting in the fourth quarter after falling down 17-3 with the help of freshman tailback Darren McFadden busting loose for a 71-yard touchdown run.
McFadden had 7 carries for 96 yards, sophomore Peyton Hillis added 10 carries for 54 yards and fellow freshmen Felix Jones had 10 carries for 48 yards as Arkansas - the nation's leading rushing team - piled up on 236 yards rushing on a team that was allowing just 38 yards per game.
"He (McFadden) is a great back," Nutt said." These freshmen backs are very, very talented and just got to keep working."
McFadden's long run - on which he used a stiff arm perfectly - cut it to 17-10 and then a Kyle Dickerson punt block and a John Rees recovery resulted in Chris Balseiro's 27-yard field goal to cut it to 17-13 with 9:53 left in the game.
"John Rees did an excellent job," Nutt said. "I just wished he had picked it up and ran on in. but I am very proud of him. It was a great block, perfect timing and just a great effort."
The Razorbacks got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but redshirt sophomore quarterback Robert Johnson's pass was intercepted and the Crimson Tide (4-0, 2-0) put the game away when an uncovered Hall scored on an easy flip from Croyle.
"We just had a misalignment," Nutt said. "We had a defense called that supposedly the safety or the corner or someone's got to go out there on the Z and they just never saw him. It was just a total mishap."
Johnson struggled in his fourth career star, connecting on just 11-of-27 passing for 80 yards with an interception, but also having several other possible picks dropped by the Crimson Tide.
"He was probably a little sore, but he was okay physically," Nutt said.
Croyle was just 12-of-26 passing on the day, but his completions went for 180 yards and two scores.
Kenneth Darby led the Alabama rushing attack with 18 carries for 91 yards.
Alabama (4-0, 2-0) led 7-3 at halftime and 10-3 at the end of the third quarter as Arkansas' beleaguered defense supplied an inspire effort a week after giving up 70 points to USC.
Arkansas' offense couldn't convert on a couple of penetrations into Alabama territory early on, but did get on the scoreboard first in the second quarter.
That came on Balseiro's 34-yard field goal, culminating an 8-play, 27-yard drive with 8:54 left before halftime.
While the Arkansas defense had played great until that point - limiting Alabama to less than 75 yards after giving up 736 last week to USC - the lead proved to be short-lived.
That's because Croyle hooked up with Hall, who turned a crossing pattern into a 43-yard touchdown when he outran three Razorback defenders to the goal line.
Johnson was blindsided on Arkansas' first possession of the second half, coughing up the ball and putting the defense in bad shape.
But the Razorback defenders stiffen and forced a field goal - this one a 37-yarder by Jamie Christensen that was low, but cleared the goal post to put Alabama up 10-3 with 13:23 left in the third quarter.
Soon afterwards a 71-yard punt by Alabama's Jeremy Schatz turned over the field and after Arkansas failed to get a first down after starting at its own 1, Bama was set up to score again.
Christensen's 48-yarder was wide right, but the Crimson Tide did come back and score on their next possession - a 10-play, 79-yard drive that featured the running of Darby.
Castille's 1-yard run coupled with Christensen's PAT put Alabama up 17-3 with 14:15 left in the fourth quarter.
Arkansas has an open date next week before returning to action against Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock on Oct. 8, then hosting Auburn in Fayetteville on Oct. 15 and heading to Georgia on Oct. 22 before having an other open date at the end of the month.
"You would love to have a win on top of these two weeks, but we have got to get healed up and ready to go," Nutt said.
Photos by Tom Ewart
Alabama 24, Arkansas 13
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Offensive Previews Oklahoma StateTexas offensive players discuss the Longhorns' upcoming game at Oklahoma State to kickoff Big 12 Conference play.
Horns DigestYesterday at 6:21 PM
Louisiana CB 'Real Close' to a DecisionIt may not be too long before one of the top cornerbacks in Louisiana makes his decision. Four schools are high on his list and you can get the latest here...
Scout FootballYesterday at 6:15 AM
JC defensive back talks ISU official visitOver the weekend, Iowa State played host to one of their top 2017 targets in the current recruiting cycle in Paramount, CA three-star JUCO CB Keisean Nixon. This visit for the…
AllCyclonesSunday at 6:34 PM
TCU vs Iowa State primerAfter falling in double-overtime to Arkansas, TCU looks to get back to their winning ways against Iowa State.
Horned Frog Insider09/15/2016