20 September 2008
75,000 screaming Arkansas fans packed Reynolds Razorback stadium Saturday for a chance to see the first SEC game for their expensive new head coach, Bobby Petrino. What they saw was an Alabama squad that took full advantage of numerous Arkansas mistakes, and that rode those mistakes and a punishing ground attack to a smashing 49-14 takedown of the new Arkansas head man and his out-manned squad.
To those fans' credit, they were still making a lot of noise late in the third quarter, by which time Bama already led 42-7. They were cheering a lost cause. Javier Arenas and Justin Woodall had already trucked interceptions for 63- and 74-yard touchdowns, respectively, and Glenn Coffee had already exclamation-pointed that with an 88-yard TD joint of his own.
Arkansas' short-yardage passing game helped Arkansas move up and down the field to the tune of 307 yards total offense, but most of it was between the thirties. Despite Arkansas' advantage in time of possession, it was the Hogs sporting the beaten-down and fatigued look by games' end, not the Tide.
Coffee, who ended the day with the sporty box score line of ten carries for 163 yards and two touchdowns, ripped off a 15-yard first down run on Bama's first play from scrimmage, but then Arkansas held the Tide to six yards on three plays, forcing a punt. In what was as much of a turning point in this game as anything else, Arkansas committed its first crucial error, drawing a penalty for running into the kicker. Given a second chance, Bama marched straight down the field, sticking it in the end zone on a short Mark Ingram run, and never looked back.
Alabama couldn't get its passing game untracked, but that didn't seem to matter, as the ground game racked up 331 yards with an impressive 9.5 yards per attempt. Meanwhile, the bend-but-don't-break defense snagged four interceptions, with Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers adding standard picks to go along with the pick sixes from Arenas and Woodall.
Arkansas seemed to play Alabama virtually even in the first half - except on the scoreboard. The Razorbacks actually racked up more total yards than Bama in the initial stanza, but Arenas and Woodall allowed Bama to step well out in front by racking up a pair of scores that didn't show up in the total yardage stats. By the time Bama ended the half with an inspired goal-line stand that stuffed the Hogs on four straight tries from the Bama one, it was 35-7.
When Casey Dick opened the second half by throwing his third interception to Marquis Johnson, and Bama followed up with another Coffee TD jaunt, this one from 31 yards out, the Tide already had a 42-7 lead with 14:05 still left in the third quarter. The final score could have been much worse.
Alabama's performance cannot hurt them in the polls, and set up next week's showdown in Athens against the highly-ranked Georgia Bulldogs as an outing that should be one of the most closely-watched contests of the young season.