Alabama at Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas' players have shown they can execute their offense and score when the pressure is on in the final two minutes of a game.

Where the Razorbacks have struggled, though, is in the opening minutes before some fans have even taken their seats.

Careless mistakes and missed opportunities have kept Arkansas' offense from getting off to a fast start. And the Hogs have needed a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks to avoid opening the season with embarrassing losses to Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe.

"We've honestly got to stop driving all the way down (the field) and shooting ourselves in the foot," Arkansas wide receiver London Crawford said. "We go down (the field) and we make big plays, get all the way down to the red zone and shoot ourselves, shoot ourselves, shoot ourselves."

No. 9 Alabama won't be as forgiving at 11:30 a.m. today when the Crimson Tide (3-0) and Arkansas (2-0) open their Southeastern Conference schedules in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

After all, Alabama wasted little time using its passing attack to build a 21-0 lead in the first quarter of last year's game against Arkansas in Tuscaloosa. The Hogs rallied and took the lead before John Parker Wilson threw a touchdown pass with eight seconds left to give Alabama a 41-38 win.

"(We must) start learning how to start fast (and) be able to take the ball on the first series and move it and go score and get three-and-outs," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "I think it's important we start carrying that over."

Petrino and his assistants tried over the past two weeks of practice to fix the offense and cut down on the penalties, blown assignments and missed field goals that have contributed to the slow starts.

The Razorbacks have yet to score a point in the first quarter this season, and they've managed only 13 first-half points compared to 43 in the second half.

"We've got to get a jump on a team. We want to put the pressure on them and make them throw the ball," Arkansas offensive tackle Jose Valdez said.

"Coach (Petrino) stressed that this week. We're going to focus a lot on coming out early and keeping it going the whole game."

That hasn't been the case so far, though.

The Razorbacks gained only 144 yards of total offense in the first half against Western Illinois, and they trailed 10-7 at halftime after getting only a Joe Adams touchdown catch in the second quarter.

A week later, Arkansas came up empty on a pair of long drives in the first quarter when kicker Alex Tejada missed field goals of 45 and 25 yards. As a result, ULM led 10-6 at halftime.

In both games, Arkansas had to erase double-digit deficits in the second half. And quarterback Casey Dick was forced to make tough fourth-down throws and drive the offense downfield for the game-winning touchdowns with less than two minutes left.

"In the fourth quarter, we've really kept our tempo and stayed after ‘em and stayed after ‘em," Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. "I think if we can just keep our tempo and not hurt ourselves, that'll help us get into the end zone."

Arkansas' offense might not get a chance to make up for another slow start today against Alabama, which boasts the nation's top rushing defense (42.7 yards per game).

The Crimson Tide has jumped on its opponents through the first three games, scoring 67 of its 95 points this season in the first half. That includes a dominant showing in the season opener when Alabama took a 23-3 lead into halftime against then-No. 9 Clemson and rolled to a 34-10 upset.

"(The Razorbacks have) shown that they can come back and score points at the end of the game to win," Wilson said. "We've got to match their intensity and be ready to play on the road."

Arkansas, meanwhile, must be ready to play early.

"I see the last two games we've bought into finishing," Crawford said. "It's just now time to start."

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