TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On a big play day, the third-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide scored three touchdowns on plays of over 50 yards to defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks, 35-7, at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama, 4-0, moved to 1-0 in Southeastern Conference play while the Razorbacks, 1-2, fall to 0-2.
“I am disappointed in our performance," Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said. "Alabama is a good football team and they do a lot of real good things, but I am disappointed in the way we played and in our execution. We have a lot of work to do to get to be the type of football team that we need to be.”
The Razorbacks stay on the road next weekend as the home team at the inaugural Southwest Classic at Dallas Cowboys Stadium versus Texas A&M.
"That was a good football team we played out there today, very good offensive team," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "I was really pleased with the defensive effort out there today. To hold those guys to seven points is really good and it was a team effort."
Senior running back Michael Smith had 12 carries for 61 yards and quarterback Ryan Mallett hit 12-of-33 for 160 yards, scoring the Razorbacks’ only touchdown on an 18-yard pass to Greg Childs.
“We just didn’t execute," Mallett said. "That hurt us and you can see that throughout the whole game. We have to execute.”
After a rough first half, Mallett guided Arkansas on a five-play, 55-yard touchdown drive. Three straight completions by the 6-7 sophomore highlighted by a 23-yard pass to D.J. Williams before the 18-yard fade route to the deep left corner for the score. Alex Tejada’s PAT made it 14-7.
“We came out and scored a touchdown to make it 14-7, but we just lost it," Mallett said. "We came out playing good in the second half and just didn’t keep it up.”
Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy put the margin back to 14 on the first play of the ensuing Alabama possession as he found Maze on a post route for an 80-yard touchdown with 10:21 left in the third and a 21-7 lead.
Mallett moved Arkansas downfield, but on fourth down Breeding’s rugby-style punt attempt was blocked by Lorenzo Washington. McElroy connected with Ingram for a 14-yard touchdown to take advantage of the miscue and a 28-7 lead with 5:33 in the third.
The Razorbacks looked like they had a big break as Dylan Breeding’s punt was downed inside the one yard line. Alabama went on a game clinching 99-yard drive that soaked up almost six and a half minutes of clock before Mark Ingram’s two yard dash made it 35-7 with 13:12 left in the game.
After giving up over 50 points to Georgia in the last game, the Razorback defense opened the game by holding the powerful Alabama offense scoreless in the first quarter.
"I really thought in the first half our defense played well," Petrino said. "They did a nice job of stopping the run. They did a nice job of tackling, except for the long run, and that was a heck of run. I just thought we didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing."
Defense held sway almost the entire opening quarter as a combined two offensive first downs, and two more by penalty, was the highlight early. The teams swapped field position advantages early until Alabama pinned Arkansas for consecutive possesions inside the Razorbacks’ 20.
Petrino went with a fake punt with a direct snap to Ronnie Wingo, Jr., on fourth and five at the Hogs’ 25 yard line to spark the first sustained drive for either team. Mallett connected with Joe Adams for a 19-yard first down play to put the Razorbacks at the Bama 47 to close the first quarter. He backed it up with another first down pass to Wright to push the Hogs to the 33, but Javier Arenas’ 8-yard sack of Mallett ended the drive.
The Tide broke the scorless start with a six play, 86-yard drive capped by a 52-yard touchdown run by T. Richardson. The Alabama back evaded a potential tackle for loss for the scoring run with 9:30 left in the quarter for a 7-0 lead.
After a first down seemed to have Arkansas moving, Arenas picked up his second sack, a 13-yard loss for the Razorbacks. Arenas returned the ensuing Hogs’ punt to the 50. Saban calls for a Wildcat reverse, ending with a McElroy 50-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones and a quick 14-0 Alabama lead.
Arkansas’ defense settled down after the 14-point outburst sending the teams to halftime with the same 14-0 spread.
The Tide racked up 217 first half yards, but 102 of Alabama’s yardage came on the two touchdown plays. Mallett hit his first two passes, and had a series of three straight in Arkansas’ one sustained drive, but went only 7-of-21 in the first half for 74 yards. McElroy was 8-of-15 for 103 yards and a TD in the first half. The Razorbacks had only 101 yards at halftime.
For the game, McElrory finished with a career high 17-of-24 for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
While Breeding suffered one block, the Razorback punter also had a career day. Breeding punted nine times for 358 yards and an average of 39.8, all are career highs. His 52-yard punt is a career long and was his third 50-yard punt of the season. Breeding also put three punts inside the 20-yard line including one inside the one.