Arkansas fell behind Alabama 24-6, but then rallied scoring the final 15 points in a 24-21 loss to the Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Arkansas had struggled offensively since taking a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. They watched the Tide seemingly take control of the game scoring 24 unanswered points. But late in the third quarter Arkansas’ fortunes started changing with the help of two penalties against Alabama. Sam Pittman talked about how the Hogs rallied.
“We were just trying to keep it close until the fourth quarter,” Pittman said. “We’ve lost some games this year in the fourth quarter, and we made a big emphasis. The defense made some adjustments. Obviously, on two of their touchdowns we had some miscommunications. We turned them loose. Offensively, we decided to run the ball a little bit on third down. Other teams have had some success against them. Even tough we didn’t play the entire game offensively well,
“I thought in the second half we showed some sparks that we can score. It was a good defense out there we were playing against. Really, the coaches made adjustments. KJ (Jefferson) made some plays. But the coaches made some halftime adjustments and held them to 140-something yards in the second half. Three points. Really good job by T-Will (Travis Williams) and the kids and coaches.”
Arkansas started a drive at its own 23 with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter. An illegal procedure penalty pushed the ball back to the 18. On a third-and-8 play, Rashod Dubinion rushed for two yards, but a facemask penalty gave Arkansas a first down at its own 42. Jefferson kept the drive going with a 22-yard run to the Tide 25. On a third-and-5 play from the Tide 20, Jefferson tried to find Ty Washington in the end zone, but it was incomplete. However a pass interference call gave Arkansas a first down at the Tide 5. That is when Jefferson threw a bullet to Isaiah Sategna for a touchdown. Cam Little’s PAT pulled the Hogs to within 24-13 with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.
After Arkansas’ defense forced a three-and-out the offense took over at its own 31. Arkansas drove to the Tide 38. There, on a second-and-10 play, it appeared the Tide had sacked Jefferson. However the determined Jefferson broke free and found tight end Var’keyes Gumms for a 25-yard gain to the Alabama 13. Three plays later Jefferson found Dubinion for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion pass from Jefferson to Andrew Armstrong was good and pulled Arkansas to within the final margin of loss.
“Our offense caught a little spark,” Pittman said. “They helped us with some penalties there and the first touchdown drive of the second half. But we just couldn’t close it out. We got the ball on the 6-yard-line needing a field goal to tie. Unfortunately, it was wide open, Dubinion just couldn’t keep his cleats on the one. I think we would have got down there a little bit at least to get a field goal, but we couldn’t do it.”
Pittman was pleased to see Jefferson break out of the sack much like he did in a game last season.
“Yeah, like the BYU game last year,” Pittman said. “I think, again, he finally had success, big success on a run, and for whatever reason that kind of gets you motivated, gets him motivated. And then he was dead to rights on that one, came out of it, made a big play, went down and scored off of it later on. But it was just two teams fighting their butt off out there today, and they just made one more play than we did. But I thought we saw some sparks even though, I think we had 250 yards of offense, but that may be a decent day against that defense. It’s obviously not what we want, but we did see some sparks in the second half that give you hope for the rest of the season.”
The Hogs came out pretty strong and got two outstanding field goals from Cam Little. On Arkansas’ second possession of the game, Cam Little booted a 55-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 9:15 remaining in the opening period.
Little added a 49-yard field goal with 2:05 left in the opening quarter for a 6-0 lead. The drive was an 8-play, 49-yard one.
The Tide had struggled on offense, but turned it around on their next possession. Jalen Milroe found Kobe Prentice for a 79-yard touchdown with 58 seconds left in the opening period. Will Reichard added the PAT to put the Tide up 7-6.
Milroe pushed it to 14-6 with a 1-yard touchdown run with 8:52 left in the second quarter. Alabama struck again on its next possession. Milroe found tight end Amari Niblack for a 29-yard touchdown and 21-6 advantage.
Alabama’s last score came with 7:47 remaining in the third quarter. Reichard booted a 30-yard field goal and it appeared the Tide was set to cruise. But Arkansas’ defense, Jefferson and the penalties by Alabama changed the complexion of the game.
Arkansas (2-5, 0-4) has now lost five games in a row. Two of the losses were by seven points and another pair by three points. Pittman talked about the close losses.
“I really don’t know, obviously,” Pittman said. “You’ve got to make a play, you know, at some point. You’ve got to — you know, one-possession losses sometime get skewed. You’ve got a stat and all that kind of stuff, but when you’re a 3-touchdown underdog and you get beat by three and that goes in the same category of, you’re a 3-point favorite and you lose by 3, it’s not the same thing. It’s still a loss, but you know, we got beat by 3 at LSU. To answer that, we needed a stop. We tied it up, got beat by 3. We had the ball with an opportunity to tie it up. I bet it was 94 yards away, but you’ve got to have those drives. We’ve got to finish somehow, and we’re just not doing it.”
The Arkansas offense managed 250 yards on the day. Jefferson was 14-of-24 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Green led the team in rushing with 44 yards on only six carries. Armstrong and Isaac TeSlaa both had four catches. Armstrong’s catches went for 48 yards and TeSlaa 25. Defensive end Landon Jackson had a huge day with 11 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Arkansas also only had two penalties for 13 yards.
The Arkansas defense limited Alabama to 415 yards of offense including 238 through the air. Much of that offense came in the first half.
Arkansas will be at home on Saturday to host Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3) with kickoff set for 11 a.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.