Wild Finishes Have Defined Recent ‘Bama Games

FAYETTEVILLE — Two overtimes, three missed field goals and a game-winning touchdown pass with eight seconds remaining.

For whatever reason, the past two meetings between Arkansas and Alabama have featured everything from the absurd to the unforgettable to the controversial.

"That's how it is in this series," Alabama center Antoine Caldwell said Monday. "Every year I've been here it's been back and forth, and we're going to prepare for another one of those this weekend."

In 2006, there was Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin's four missed kicks and an improbable catch by tight end Ben Cleveland in double overtime to lift Arkansas to a 24-23 win in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Then there was last year's game in Tuscaloosa that included Alabama's fast start, late collapse and lucky break on a questionable pass interference penalty against Arkansas safety Kevin Woods in the final seconds.

"That was a hard game to lose because we fought back all the way to the end and then we lost at the end," Arkansas defensive end Adrian Davis said of the 41-38 loss. "It was just a hard game to lose."

As the Razorbacks (2-0) and ninth-ranked Crimson Tide (3-0) prepare for Saturday's game in Fayetteville, players from both teams don't seem to know what type of craziness to expect this time around.

After all, who could have predicted that the Hogs would trail 21-0 after the first quarter of last year's game, only to come back, take a lead and lose on a 4-yard touchdown catch by Alabama's Matt Caddell with eight seconds left?

Arkansas' players haven't forgotten about the heartbreaking loss, and it hasn't helped that they've been asked about it over the past few days. Alabama's players have had to answer another round of questions about it as well.

"Our team fought back and just grinded the whole entire game and came back and had a chance to win it. Things didn't go our way at the very end," Arkansas tight end Andrew Davie said.

"I think we're looking to change that this year. But you got to look ahead and this is the future."

Since Arkansas traditionally faces Alabama in September, the game usually sets the tone for the remainder of the season. And as odd as it might seem, the losing team over the past two years has had a new coach by the time the next meeting rolls around.

The Crimson Tide had several opportunities to beat the Razorbacks in 2006, but Tiffin had a complete meltdown. He missed a field goal in overtime and an extra point in double overtime, opening the door for Cleveland to score the winning touchdown on Mitch Mustain's desperate lob on a third-and-8.

Alabama fired coach Mike Shula after going 6-7 that season. A year later, Houston Nutt watched a weird finish against the Crimson Tide mark the beginning of the end of his tenure at Arkansas.

With the Razorbacks leading 38-34 with 2:13 remaining, the Crimson Tide drove downfield and got a break when Woods was flagged for pass interference on a third-and-9 despite the replay showing no apparent penalty.

Caddell caught the winning touchdown three plays later. Nutt resigned under pressure a little more than two months later.

"Normally, whoever wins this game goes on to have a pretty good year," Caldwell said. "It's one of those swing games that we've had."

Arkansas has already shown this season in comeback wins over Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe that it likes drama.

And considering that Alabama is also undefeated heading into Saturday, there is a good chance that this year's meeting could involve more surprises like the past two years.

"You know, everytime Arkansas goes against Alabama in an SEC matchup, it's going to be a fight," Arkansas strong safety Matt Harris said. "And this year it's (also) going to be a fight."

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