FAYETTEVILLE — No. 2 Alabama used a dominating fourth quarter to upend No. 20 Arkansas 49-26 Saturday afternoon in Razorback Stadium.
Alabama jumped out to a 28-0 lead and it appeared the Hogs were going to be blown out at home. Arkansas scored on its last drive of the first half to finally get on the scoreboard. Then Arkansas dominated the third quarter scoring 16 points to pull within 28-23. But it was at that point things fell apart for the Hogs.
The turning point in the game came on the second play of the fourth quarter. Alabama faced a third-and-15 play from its own 20 with the Hogs breathing down their throats. Bryce Young had left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. Arkansas had contained backup quarterback Jalen Milroe the entire third quarter. However, Milroe ran to his left and then cut back to his right and raced 77 yards to the Arkansas three-yard line. Running back Jase McClellan scored from the three and the Tide went up 35-23 with 14:09 remaining in the game. The air came out of Arkansas at that point and Sam Pittman addressed that play afterward.
“It was huge,” Pittman said. “They were down I think inside the 20 in a 28-23 game. They went 77, and then they scored a couple plays later and got it back up to a 12-point game. We didn’t answer on offense. That was a big, big play. I’m proud of the team for the way we came out and fought back into the game. We were in it, in it. That play right there seemed to take the wind out of our sails and we couldn’t convert the next time we had the ball, but that was a big, big play.”
Running back Jahmyr Gibbs added 72- and 76-yard touchdowns in the fourth quarter as Arkansas missed tackles and were caught out of position not even touching him in some situations.
“Obviously, Gibbs’ run, I don’t think we touched him,” Pittman said. “We have to get better. We have to tackle better. We seem to say it every week. We have to eat up space better. On offense, we have to throw the ball better, too. Right now, we’re one dimensional. We have to be able to throw and catch and protect and all those things. It has to be better because we can’t just turn and hand the ball off and beat really good teams. We have to be better.”
On offense, Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson completed 13 of 24 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown to Ketron Jackson. Jadon Haselwood caught six passes for 37 yards. In the game, Arkansas passed for 190 yards to 235 for the Tide. Cade Fortin was 4 of 10 in relief of Jefferson who got slammed to the ground hard.’
“He hit his head,” Pittman said. “I don’t know. I don’t know where he’s at to be honest with you. Obviously, we didn’t bring him back in. I don’t know any more than that.”
As far as why Fortin instead of Malik Hornsby Pittman made it clear it wasn’t a tough decision.
“That decision has been made for a while,” Pittman said. “So, he’s our number two quarterback, so, we put him in there.”
Pittman talked about what he wanted in the gameplan against the Tide on offense.
“I wanted to run some go balls, and we tried that a little bit,” Pittman said. “We tried it later. We always try to establish the run to throw play-action off of it, but we just — we either weren’t getting open or we weren’t throwing it accurately. We came off the field, we couldn’t stay on the field. Against Alabama, you’re not going to be able to turn around and hand it three times in-a-row and get a first down all the time. I was disappointed, I just didn’t feel like we threw it, caught it, protected it, all those things well, got open, all those things. It just wasn’t there.”
While there was reason to be disappointed in the offense, it’s also fair to point out the defense allowed Alabama to convert 9 of 14 third-down plays. The Hogs couldn’t get off the field on third down.
“It’s bad,” Pittman said. “You sit there and think you’re going to get off, then they make a play. It’s very deflating. But that’s part of the game. It’s happening too often to us. We’ve got to figure out how to get off the field when we have an advantage with the sticks. It’s not that we’re not working it, it’s just we’re not doing it. Part of that has to do with tightness of coverage. Part of that has to do with area in tackling. Tackling is still a problem for us that we’ve got to improve on. But sure, it’s very deflating.”
Pittman did relay what he told the team at halftime when they were down 28-7, but got the ball first to start the third quarter.
“I felt like we get back in the game as long as we believe we get back in the game,” Pittman said. “What happens is we’ve won a lot of games, 12 of our last whatever it is, and — I guess 12 of our last 18 or whatever. But what happens is you can’t — you got to watch it because you can’t revert back to always getting our butt kicked every week and you have to watch it. Because it’s hard. We got to have leadership. That’s what the halftime was about the older guys that need to lead and talk. I think the captains did a nice job of talking at halftime after I got through. To be honest with you, it was just a challenge to go play hard, to play hard, show our character, who we are, what got us here. Go out there and play hard, and we had to make adjustments as a coaching staff. But they had to go out there and play hard and I thought they did.”
Arkansas (3-2, 1-2) will now head to Starkville to take on Mississippi State on Saturday at 11 a.m. and televised on the SEC Network. Mississippi State (4-1, 1-1) blasted Texas A&M 42-24 on Saturday in Starkville.