State of the Hogs: 'Bama Loss

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – There was once a time in college football when there were no split ends. Formations were tight and it was simple for the defense to account for the 11 offensive players.

Then, sometime around the time I was born, the split end was hatched, too. Army coach Earl Blaik decided his man Bill Carpenter would go wide and stay there for the entire game. Best I remember, Carpenter, or someone soon after him, didn't even return to the huddle.

They called him the Lonesome End. Books were penned. I inherited one from my father's sports library. When I return to the Ozarks, I'll read it and get all of this exactly right in my mind.

They can add a chapter now, or just show it on ESPN's Sports Center for weeks. It will be about Alabama wide receiver DJ Hall, now the most lonesome end.

Arkansas might have lost to Alabama anyway, but Brodie Croyle's 5-yard touchdown pass to Hall with 2:22 left sealed the deal in a 24-3 victory. Hall was left uncovered by the Hogs' secondary. He wasn't just uncovered. He was unseen until Croyle had already hit him in the numbers.

Until then, the story line of the game was about how Arkansas' defense, the punch line for so many jokes the previous week after giving up 70 points and 736 total yards to Southern Cal, found its focus and hung tough with a respectable ‘Bama offense. The Tide needed that gift play at the end to go over 300 yards.

It didn't surprise Alabama offensive coordinator Dave Rader. He knew what was coming even if he reluctantly showed Arkansas videotape of the USC debacle.

"It was important to watch it because SC runs the same stuff that we run so it was going to be somewhat beneficial," Rader said. "But I kept telling our guys that Arkansas wasn't going to play like that again and they didn't. You caution them every step of the way watching that tape that they wouldn't be that bad against us.

"We got the same matchups as SC, but they covered us pretty good. And, they didn't run some of that stuff they ran last week. They played us pretty good, just like I told our guys they would."

Alabama did hit some plays against the Hogs, but the best thing it did was win the turnover battle by a 2-0 count. The only Tide mistake was a blocked punt, technically not a turnover, that led to an Arkansas field goal.

The Tide was sound in the running game and equally impressive in working the ball to wideouts on crossing patterns. It was that kind of balance that led South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier to show his offense videotape Thursday night of Alabama's offensive execution against the Gamecocks from the previous day "so that our guys would see how you are supposed to do it."

No one will be showing tape of the Arkansas offense against Alabama. The Hogs did block Darren McFadden free and the tall, fast, strong freshman stiff-armed the last man for a 70-yard touchdown run. However, the Hogs still have a long way to go with their pass protection.

Offensive guard Stephen Parker was right on the money when he said the Hogs need to "spend the entire open date this week on our pass blocking. It was terrible. We let our quarterback get hit time after time. We have to build an iron wall around Robert Johnson, but we are busting assignments and turning people loose. The defense played their hearts out, but the offense didn't come to play. We are supposed to be a 35-point offense, but we didn't show up."

Johnson, the sophomore quarterback, had one lost fumble when he was blindsided on a pass attempt and another turnover when he "threw the ball up for grabs" on a screen pass for tight end Mason Templeton when the Hogs trailed just 17-13. It could have been worse. The Tide dropped between three and five pass interceptions.

Johnson probably knew in his heart his play wasn't pretty, but he gave the "let's see the tape first" comment when asked to summarize his performance.

They won't have to wait for the videotape to know that Alabama now has the most lonesome end.



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