FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas turned the ball over five times in the 52-0 loss to No. 1 Alabama Saturday.
Two came on Brandon Allen passes, both in the first half, and were returned for a total of 59 yards. Arkansas also fumbled eight times, losing three of them.
“It’s ridiculous,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said of the fumbles. “And a couple of them looked like guys just dropped the ball. I just don’t - that’s that’s - unexcusable. Something that can’t happen. You can’t beat a bad team, let alone the No. 1 team in the country, when you have eight fumbles.”
The five turnovers were costly. Alabama turned each turnover into a touchdown in the blowout.
Without Tyler Wilson, Arkansas’ quarterback stats against Alabama were troubling. Brandon Allen, the starter, was 10 of 18 for 60 yards, with two picks. He also was sacked three times and had –19 rushing. Brandon Mitchell was 1-of-7 for 19 yards and had six carries for 19 yards out of the shotgun. Wilson told a CBS sideline reporter that doctors did not clear him to play after sustaining a head injury against Louisiana-Monroe.
Tyler Wilson remains 12-3 as a starter after sitting out against Alabama. Going into the Alabama game, Wilson was still among SEC leaders in several categories despite not playing in the second half against ULM. He was the league leader in average yards per pass attempt (11.98) and yards of total offense per play (1.22). He also was tops in the SEC with 18.77 yards per completion and had the best pass efficiency rating of 195.30.
Arkansas was perfect in Red Zone possessions going into the Alabama game. They were perfect against Alabama, but in the opposite direction. The Razorbacks were 0-2 against the Crimson Tide. Going into the Alabama game, the Razorbacks were eight-for-eight on touchdowns on possessions inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Arkansas was one of three teams in the nation after Week 2 to record a touchdown on every Red Zone possession.
Saturday marked the fifth time Arkansas had hosted a defending national champion in Fayetteville. Before the 45-0 loss to Alabama, the Razorbacks had defeated Auburn, 38-14, in 2011; beat Tennessee, 28-24 in 1999; and edged TCU, 14-13, back in 1939. The only other loss was in 2010 to Alabama, 24-10.
In the (press) box
At least eight NFL scouts were in a crowded press box at Reynolds Razorback Stadium Saturday. Among the teams represented were the Cowboys, Steelers, Texans, Bills and Packers. Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, ESPN and CBS, which had the national telecast, were among national media working the game.
No Alabama rusher gained 100 yards against Arkansas Saturday; instead they parsed out the carries and had three players who gained more than 50. Third-teamer Kenyan Drake led Alabama rushers with 57 yards while starter Eddie Lacy and backup T.J. Yeldon ran for 55 yards apiece. Running back Blake Sims chipped in another 25.
Nick Saban is in his sixth year as head coach at Alabama, and in that time he has had seven different ball carriers to go over the 100-yard rushing mark in a game, including Yeldon, a freshman, who gained 111 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown in the Tide’s season opener against Michigan. Trent Richardson did it 13 times, followed closely by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram’s 12 games with 100 yards or more on the ground. There’s a big gap to Glen Coffee’s six 100-yard rushing games.
Center Travis Swanson and offensive guard Alvin Bailey have each started all 29 games of their collegiate careers. Junior David Hurd and sophomore Brey Cook, both offensive tackles, got the first collegiate starts of their careers against Jacksonville State in the season opener. Offensive guard Tyler Deacon, a senior, also got his first start in the season opener; he played in 11 games last season, mostly on special teams.
Breaking the Tie
Arkansas went into the Alabama game with a 2-2-1 record on games played on Sept. 15. The Razorbacks were 2-0 in home games played on that date, but are now 2-1. Arkansas downed Tulsa, 28-3, in Fayetteville in 1990 — a season opener — and opened the season in Little Rock in 1979 by dominating Colorado State, 28-3.
ESPN’s College Gameday crew rerouted to Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday for the Tennessee-Florida game. The decision to abandon plans to set up in Fayetteville came after Arkansas’ stunning loss to Louisiana-Monroe, after which the Razorbacks tumbled all out of the AP Top 25 poll after residing at No. 8 after Week 1. Arkansas began the season at No. 10 and had moved up two spots after defeating Jacksonville State in the opener. ULM defeated Arkansas 34-31 in overtime, which marked the first time in history the Warhawks had defeated a ranked team.
Returning for Tide
A lot has been written about Alabama returning 43 lettermen from its 2011 national championship team, but 21 of those also were on the roster of the Crimson Tide team that won the national title in 2009. Eight current players actually got playing time on both title teams.
Four true freshmen are listed on the Arkansas depth chart: wide receivers Mekale McKay and Keon Hatcher, linebacker Otha Peters, and cornerback Will Hines, but they aren’t the only freshmen who have gotten playing time this season. After two games, 10 true freshmen had seen game action. The other six were punt returner Nate Holmes, A.J. Turner, Jonathan Williams, Deatrich Wise, Brandon Lewis, and Demetrius Dean.
For Alabama, 10 true freshmen also got on the field in the first two games, including running back T.J. Yeldon, who turned in a 111-yard rushing performance in the Tide’s season opener against Michigan.
Arkansas was ranked in the Top 10 of 13 straight Associated Press polls dating back to Oct. 2, 2011, until falling out of the Top 25 poll following the loss to Louisiana-Monroe. No. 1 Alabama has been ranked in the AP poll 68 straight times. Its longest streak in the poll was 71 in the 1990s under Gene Stallings. If the poll had gone that deep, Arkansas would have been No. 28 last week. The coaches’ poll had Arkansas at No. 21 going into the Alabama game. No doubt they will be in neither poll in the coming week.
Former Rimington Trophy recipient Jonathan Luigs was the honorary captain for the Arkansas-Alabama game. As he walked through the “A” prior to the game, he was accompanied by Athletic Director Jeff Long. Luigs won the award given to the nation’s top center in 2008, his final year with the Razorbacks.
Pick a Category
It’s hard to find a statistical area in which Alabama doesn’t excel. The defense has allowed only five 100-yard rushers since 2005. That didn’t change Saturday. It has led the league in first-year academic honor roll students on its team the past three seasons with 29. The closest competitor is Mississippi State with 19. The Tide went into Saturday’s game tied with Boise State for the most victories since 2008 with 50. TCU was third at 48. Twelve Alabama players were named to 15 preseason watch lists and eight players were named preseason All-Americans by 15 publications.
—Dennis A. Byrd
Arkansas News Bureau