Ever since Nick Saban’s comments about the media spreading “rat poison” amongst his players and staff, there was moderate concern about how the Crimson Tide would respond to last week’s less-than-inspiring 27-19 victory over Texas A&M.
Those concerns were answered with a dominant performance by the Tide, who defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks by a final score of 41-9. The Tide were led by Damien Harris, who had 124 yards on only 9 carries and two touchdowns, as well as Jalen Hurts, who had 196 total yards and two touchdowns.
In addition to the offense, the Tide defense showed out, holding Arkansas to 27 team rushing yards and 227 total yards. The Razorbacks really struggled to create many opportunities under their quarterback, redshirt freshman Cole Kelley, who was filling in for injured senior quarterback Austin Allen, who missed the game due to a shoulder injury sustained during the South Carolina game last weekend.
Kelley had a very solid statline for the Hogs, throwing for 200 yards, with one touchdown in garbage time and one interception.
Alabama got out to a very hot start, with Damien Harris taking the first play from scrimmage 75 yards for his first touchdown. Following a 3-and-out for the Hogs, Blake Johnson, the Arkansas punter, fumbled the punt snap, recovered it, and threw an incomplete pass, allowing the Tide to have a short field. The offense stalled for Bama, but Andy Pappanastos salvaged the possession with a 39-yard field goal to make the score 10-0 not even four minutes into the game. Following a punt by the Hogs and another Damien Harris touchdown, this time from 4 yards, the Tide’s punt return team, who was playing true freshman Henry Ruggs III as a punt returner due to the benching of the normal punt returner, Trevon Diggs, began to make numerous unforced errors, muffing three punts in four attempts, one of which was recovered by Arkansas. The Arkansas offense was stifled after recovering the muffed punt, losing 8 yards and being forced to punt. Tack on a late Jalen Hurts touchdown run and the Tide led 24-0 heading into halftime.
Following a quick possession by Arkansas, Alabama made another mistake, with Hurts throwing his first interception of the season to Arkansas linebacker Kevin Richardson II, who made a very impressive diving catch to deny ‘Bama receiver Cam Sims a catch of his own. That turnover led to Arkansas’ first points of the night, a 30-yard field goal by Connor Limpert, but the Tide responded immediately, going 78 yards in 6 plays, culminating in a 20-yard touchdown from Hurts to Ruggs III. The Tide went up 31-3 at that point, and the rout was on. The backups came in for Bama and ran the clock down, sealing up the 41-9 victory for the Tide.
For the most part, this game was dominated by Alabama on both sides of the ball. The Tide outgained Arkansas 496-227, and that dominance showed in how the game was controlled. Save the late touchdown against the backups, the defense was quite stout, not allowing a ton of big plays to the Razorbacks, and the offense controlled the game throughout by primarily running the football. Overall, the Tide should be satisfied with the result of this game, but should look inwards to attempt to improve on those few critical mistakes that kept them from playing the perfect game against an overmatched Arkansas side.
Alabama plays the Tennessee Volunteers in the middle game of their 3-week homestand next weekend, while Arkansas takes on the Auburn Tigers down on the plains at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff for Alabama is at 3:30 Eastern/2:30 Central on CBS, while Arkansas plays at 7:30 Eastern/6:30 Central on ESPN.