Two-Minute Drill: Alabama’s Gifts Too Good for Hogs to Take, Tide Wins 14-13


Arkansas may never have a better opportunity to beat Alabama than it had Saturday night, with the 7th-ranked Crimson Tide all but giving the Hogs chance after chance to win. Yet, with all that generosity, Arkansas still fell short 14-13, a score whose significance seemed apropos on a night the university was honoring the 1964 unbeaten national champion Razorbacks (Arkansas beat Texas that year 14-13, and Texas went on to beat Alabama 21-17 in the Orange Bowl, allowing Arkansas to earn the Football Writers Association of America distinction as the nation’s best team after the bowls; the wire services had declared Bama the winner before the bowls, as that’s how they did things 50 years ago.) Anyway, a half-century later, Arkansas seemed to channel the 1964 team with a phenomenal defensive effort against the Tide, while the visitors coughed up two fumbles on punts and fumbled another, lucky to recover it. Bama quarterback Blake Sims performed well below expectations, and even threw to passes right into the numbers of Hog defenders who dropped them. One preceded by two plays the first Alabama touchdown. Bama also fumbled a kickoff but somehow recovered it. The Tide missed a chip-shot field goal, only to see Arkansas’s Alex Collins fumble the ball right back to Bama, setting up that first Tide score. Arkansas’ Kody Walker fumbled inches from crossing the goal line in the first quarter, wasting another Hog chance. Arkansas looked its usual self in the fourth quarter, unable to run the football and forced to pass, which it could not do with any success. Arkansas had a PAT deflected when the right side of its protection broke down after its first touchdown vs. Bama in three years. A 43-yard field goal in the first half never had a chance when usually dependable snapper Alan D’Appolonio snapped too high for the holder. Alabama failed on a fourth-and-inches near midfield in the fourth quarter, and Arkansas gave it right back with its own failure on fourth-and-1 four plays later. It was the probably the ultimate in frustration as an SEC losing streak stretched to 15 straight games.

It’s likely if anyone knew these statistics before the game, they’d been certain Arkansas would have pulled off a massive upset and recorded the biggest win in years at Fayetteville: Arkansas outgained Alabama 335 yards to 227; the Hogs held Alabama to 66 yards rushing, a stunning low for the Nick Saban era; Bama star T.J. Yeldon gained 45 yards on 16 carries, a 2.8 yards per carry average; Arkansas only gained 89 on the ground, but that was 25 more than ‘Bama was allowing on average per game, and Jonathan Williams gained 4.2 yards per carry on 84 rushing yards, 20 attempts; Blake Sims, who earlier this season rake Florida for more than 400 yards threw the air, completed just 11 of 21 passes for 161 yards, and 47 of those came on one pass on a drive that didn’t end up in points; all-world Bama receiver Amari Cooper was held to two catches for 22 yards, and a long of 12, even though he was targeted for 11 passes; Arkansas’s much improved defense limited Alabama to 4 of 15 conversions on third down, while Arkansas converted 9 of 19 third downs. Alabama had just 10 first downs to Arkansas’ 18 and ran just 53 plays to Arkansas’ 79. And you know the adage about statistics being for losers …

It’s rare a team’s punter gets much credit in being the deciding factor in a game, but Alabama has to thank its lucky stars it had J.K. Scott on Saturday night. Scott pinned Arkansas inside its 20 seven times, either with 50-plus-yard field changing rockets off his foot or deft placement of short kicks from near midfield. Arkansas’ last real chance to mount a long game-winning drive started on its own 12 after a Scott punt. He averaged 44.2 yards per kick with a long of 58. The one time he didn’t put Arkansas deep, the Hogs drove 57 yards for a go-ahead score in the third quarter.

No one has accused Arkansas tight end A.J. Derby of having blazing speed, but the senior showed some wheels on a 54-yard catch and run for a third-quarter touchdown that temporarily put Arkansas in front 13-7. Derby ran a crossing route on third down at the first-down distance and took in Brandon Allen’s throw, stiff-armed one attempted tackle, and then began a race down the right sideline in front of the Crimson Tide, with thought-to-be-speedy Eddie Jackson, a cornerback, in pursuit. Derby, however, fended off Jackson and seemed to be pulling away as he tight-roped the sideline and got in for the score. Derby led all Arkansas receivers Saturday with four catches for 77 yards. Keon Hatcher, the Hogs’ typically fasted receiver, had three catches for 58 yards, and tight end Hunter Henry had three receptions for 38 yards. Arkansas had a good plan to get the ball to Kody Walker in the flats early, and he had three receptions for 15 yards, but he lost the handle just as ‘Bama linebacker Trey Depreist was arriving with a hit near the goal line, and the went into the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback, denying Arkansas an early score.

Hog running back Alex Collins was held out for the first quarter for missing a workout last week, according to Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. Though he would quickly get in, carrying on the first play of the second quarter, Collins might as well have stayed on the bench. He had six carries for 13 yards for the night with a long run of 6 yards and a 2.2 per carry average. But worse, Collins coughed up a fumble near the Arkansas 25-yard line that Alabama eventually recovered at the Hogs’ 23, setting up a second quarter  touchdown pass three plays later — a 22-yard toss from a scrambling Blake Sims to running back T.J. Yeldon, who had slipped into an open space during the scrambling — to put the Tide up 7-0. This was reminiscent of last season’s Mississippi State game in Little Rock, when both Collins and Jonathan Williams had to sit out the first quarter for being late for a workout or meeting. Collins had a difficult day that afternoon as well, ultimately fumbling the football inside the 10-yard line as Arkansas was going in for potentially the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter. Mississippi State won the game in overtime, and hasn’t lost since.

Arkansas’s running attack in the first half was keyed by Jonathan Williams’ ability to get yards after contact. He went into halftime with 78 yards on 16 carries and scored the Hogs’ first touchdown on a 3-yard run through the left side off a quick pitch. But Williams would only get four more carries, and Arkansas’s offensive staff decided the best way to try to move the ball against Alabama was threw the air. Brandon Allen threw 19 passes, completing 12, in the first half, and winged it 21 times in the second half but completed just nine for 135 yards. In the fourth quarter, Allen was 3 of 11. When Arkansas scored, though, it was because Allen was dead-on with his throws and with a good plan to avoid Alabama’s all-out-blitzes up the middle on long third downs. The Tide eventually veered away from that strategy, and had more success catching up with Allen on early downs. Alabama made Arkansas one-dimensional mostly with its massive front three (the Tide rotated in several players at those positions, which wore on Arkansas’s offensive line) and three linebackers, allowing five-man coverage in the secondary much of the second half. Alabama also sacked Allen four times, a high for the season.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema was out on the field at the “20” mark of the yard-line in the Alabama red zone vehemently trying to call a time out before the Crimson Tide snapped the ball on a third-down play early in the fourth quarter. The linesman on the side didn’t acknowledge the time out, Blake Sims fumbled the snap and picked it up, ran around and found DeAndrew White wide open in the end zone for a 6-yard scoring toss to tie the game. Adam Griffith’s kick gave ‘Bama the lead for good with 12:36 to play.

“It hurts and sucks. You work so hard and put so much time in and you are just that close two games in a row, it just hurts.” Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry

“Arkansas has got a good team, they really do. They are better than people think … Our guys did a really good job today stopping their running game. Defensively for them, they did a really good job. Their quickness up front really affected us, we missed some blocking assignments throughout the night and couldn’t finish blocks like we wanted to. We dodged a bullet early, we only had six plays in the first quarter, got some huge stops on defense to get out of things.” — Alabama coach Nick Saban

Arkansas (3-3) will play its only game in Little Rock next Saturday against Georgia. Game time is 3 p.m.


Player interviews with Brandon Allen, Trey Flowers and Allen Turner.

bama beats the hogs


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,