Bummer In 'Bama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Arkansas left guard Stephen Parker contemplated the consequences of the little mistakes Saturday afternoon, shortly after the Razorbacks left the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium with a 24-13 loss at No. 20 Alabama.

The frustrated junior said penalties derailed drives. Missed assignments turned positive plays into negative ones. First-and-10 turned into third-and-15, while outstanding field position resulted in nothing but missed opportunities.

"It's so disappointing that we played the way that we did," Parker said. "We had opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. We had great field position.

"But we didn't capitalize on anything."

A week after the defense failed to give Arkansas (1-3, 0-2 in Southeastern Conference) a chance during its 70-17 loss at top-ranked Southern California, the offense returned the frustrating favor in front of 81,018 Saturday. The Hogs put together 318 yards against the nation's fourth-ranked defense, but erratic play sent them to their third straight loss and first against Alabama since 2002.

It overshadowed a solid performance by the defense, which surrendered the second-most points in school history and a record 736 yards in a lopsided loss to the Trojans. They made mistakes -- like leaving wide receiver DJ Hall all alone on his game-clinching, 5-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter -- but the defense limited Alabama to 301 yards, held the SEC's leading rusher, Kenneth Darby, under 100 and turned in its strongest effort of the season at Alabama (4-0, 2-0).

"The defense deserved to win the game," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "They played well enough to win. But it takes all three phases."

Arkansas found out against the Tide, playing without injured linemen Zac Tubbs and Jonathan Luigs (sprained ankle). Junior Tyler Morgan started at right guard, but Parker said the offensive struggles were a group effort.

The Razorbacks, whose average starting point was the Arkansas 35, were hampered by six offensive penalties. They converted 3 of 17 third-down conversions and committed two second-half turnovers that led to 10 Tide points.

"We made a lot of mistakes on offense," said Arkansas quarterback Robert Johnson, who completed 11 of 26 passes for 81 yards with one interception. "We made a lot of mental mistakes."

The Razorbacks, who entered the game with the SEC's top ground game (291.3 yards), did grind out 237 against the nation's second-ranked run defense behind tailback Darren McFadden. The freshman rushed for 95 yards in his first start, including an electrifying, 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

It cut the Tide's lead to 17-10 with 13:29 remaining. But it was the Razorbacks' only touchdown of the day.

They got close a few minutes later when the defense forced Alabama off the field after four plays. Running back Kyle Dickerson blocked a Jeremy Schatz punt and it was recovered by receiver John Aaron Rees at Alabama's 11. But Arkansas had to settle for Chris Balseiro's 27-yard field goal, which cut the lead to 17-13.

"I thought our offense was going to put it in (the end zone) there," Dickerson said.

It was part of a frustrating day for Johnson, who was under pressure throughout his fourth career start. Alabama's defense returned nine starters, including seven seniors, and forced the sophomore into costly mistakes.

Johnson lost a fumble at the Arkansas 17 on the first play of the second half after being blindsided by Alabama cornerback Simeon Castille. He also threw an interception to linebacker Juwan Simpson at Arkansas' 47 late in the fourth quarter with the Hogs trailing 17-13.

"We got Robert hit," Parker said. "We can't do that. That's all on us as an offensive line. We take full credit for that. We screwed up. We played a stupid game. We had three offsides. You can't do that."

Nutt blamed the poor pass protection for Arkansas' failure to challenge the Crimson Tide with deep passes. Sophomore Marcus Monk -- 4 catches, 47 yards -- turned in the longest pass play with a 19-yard catch in the second quarter.

It was part of a chaotic two minutes in which Arkansas reached the Alabama 33, but never took a shot at the end zone. The Hogs didn't manage the clock, couldn't get in field goal range and were forced to go into the locker room trailing 7-3.

Arkansas never threw the ball into the end zone the entire game.

"I figured they'd try to throw it (downfield) to Monk a little more," said Alabama safety Charlie Peprah. "I guess they had their game plan and that wasn't part of it."

Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle, in the meantime, tossed two touchdown passes. Both went to Hall, who finished with 3 catches for 54 yards.

Hall's first score came in the second quarter, when he beat free safety Matterral Richardson, slipped past strong safety Vickiel Vaughn and raced to the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown. It gave the Crimson Tide a 7-3 lead.

Hall was left all alone on his second touchdown, catching a 5-yard touchdown pass from Croyle with 2:22 left. The Razorbacks never saw Hall split out right and left him unguarded despite the urging of coaches from the Arkansas sideline. Croyle called off a draw play, signaled to Hall and lobbed him a touchdown pass that iced the game.

"The only way I knew he was out there was when I turned and saw the ball thrown and he was catching it," Vaughn said. "Everybody was accounted for but him."

Said Nutt: "I was trying to call timeout and holler and scream, 'Get over.' But we didn't get it done."

It was the biggest mistake on an otherwise admirable night for the defense.

Arkansas limited Alabama to 301 yards and 4 of 14 third-down conversions. Sam Olajubutu (12 tackles) led a defense that sacked Croyle three times, forced the Tide to punt seven times and even stuffed a fourth-down attempt in the first quarter.

"We knew that we were going to get Arkansas' best," said Croyle, who completed 13 of 27 passes for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns.

"I think we saw their best. And it was almost enough. But we held on at the end."

Alabama, which moved into the Top 25 for just the second time in coach Mike Shula's tenure last week, improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1996 and will play undefeated Florida next Saturday. The Razorbacks will take a break after a disappointing start and will try, once again, to regroup and break their three-game losing streak against Lousiana-Monroe in Little Rock on Oct. 8.

Nutt said Arkansas showed plenty of character and pride by bouncing back from the USC embarrassement against Alabama. He said it "showed how good our team can be."

But it wasn't enough to get a much-needed win.

"Our defense did a tremendous job," Arkansas center Kyle Roper said. "We couldn't ask them to do any better. They did good enough for us to win. It's always bad when you've got a defense that's playing good and we just can't pull it together.

"You hate to see it. It hurts. We've got to help them out."

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