TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – If the mighty Alabama is a good indicator of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ progress under coach Sam Pittman, then Saturday’s debates at Bryant-Denny Stadium indicate the Hogs are heading for better days in the wild west of the sec.
Cam Little’s rebounding kick went out of bounds with 1:02 left after University of Arkansas No.21 hit a touchdown and No.2 Alabama held on for a 42 win. -35 in a thriller at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“We didn’t come here to lose by seven, we came here to win the game,” said Pittman, who praised his side for facing Tide.
“I told them the days of kicking and kicking the teeth are over. I think we’ve proven it at least for this week.”
Arkansas (7-4, 3-4 SEC) had lost their last four games to the Crimson Tide by increasing point differentials to 156 points, including 52-3 last season.
This time around, the Razorbacks capitalized on calls from aggressive play on offense and special teams to stay in the game throughout, with KJ Jefferson representing 348 yards and 3 touchdowns and Treylon Burks scoring 179 yards on reception and 2 scores all. while playing with an injury to his upper right side.
However, Arkansas had no response for Heisman Trophy favorite Bryce Young, who clocked a school record 559 yards and 5 touchdowns to set Alabama on fire at 671-468 in all-out offense.
The Crimson Tide (10-1, 6-1 SEC) clinched a berth against Georgia in the SEC Championship game in two weeks, but they were pushed by a confident team looking to win a fourth straight game for the second time this season.
“I knew they had a good team and I knew it would be a tough game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told CBS Sports.
In his press conference, Saban added: “Playing in the West this year has been very difficult. We won close games. We won a close game today.
“The resilience of the players has helped that. Their competitive spirit and what it means to them helps, but there are some things we need to fix that we are not fixing.”
Alabama won their 15th in a row in the series, the most consecutive wins over Arkansas by an opponent.
“At the end of the day, there wasn’t a guy on our team who didn’t think we could win the game today,” said Arkansas linebacker Grant Morgan. “It’s heartbreaking. It sucks because we all came here to win.
“We just almost beat Bama. It almost only counts for horseshoes and hand grenades so we didn’t and that’s what we need to focus on next week.”
Arkansas made up for a 31-14 deficit early in the fourth quarter and had possession of their own 1-yard line with 8:52 remaining at 34-28. However, that possession did not yield a first down and Alabama struck again with another deep ball, and Young ran in the two-run conversion to make it 42-28.
Jefferson found Raheim Sanders for a 17-yard touchdown pass to top Arkansas’ fifth touchdown by over 75 yards to fall back to 42-35 with 1:02 to go.
“Alabama are a great team,” said Jefferson, who completed 22 of 30 passes for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns. “And just going on the wire with a great team like this lets us know we’re headed in the right direction.”
Burks scored eight of 10 targets for 179 yards and consistently beat man-to-man cover from Josh Jobe, Jalyn Armor-Davis and Kool-Aid McKinstry corners despite playing with pain.
Alabama responded with 31 of 40 passes from Young, his 559 passing yards breaking Scott Hunter’s 52-year school record. Young had an effectiveness rating of 236.1 and two remarkable wide receptors to target.
Sprinter Jameson Williams made 8 catches for 190 yards and 3 touchdowns and John Metchie III added 10 receptions for 173 yards and 1 score.
Brian Robinson Jr. had 122 rushing yards on 27 carries for Alabama, while the Hogs combined 42 carries for 110 yards, led by 42 yards for Trelon Smith.
After Alabama took a 3-0 lead after the first quarter, the two offenses woke up to start a shootout.
Young’s handgun sling, which Pittman compared to Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes, resulted in a 12-yard touchdown pass to Christian Leary to put Alabama in the lead 31-14 in the first possession of the second half.
Arkansas wouldn’t fold.
On a third and 1 Arkansas 34 snap three games later, Jefferson spotted Jobe’s one-man cover against Burks on the right edge and unleashed a back shoulder throw. Burks stopped, shot in the pass at Alabama 49 and passed secondary Tide for 66 yards.
Arkansas were leading 34-21 early in the fourth quarter when the Razorbacks unleashed more tricks on special teams. Facing an Alabama 32 fourth and 9, Little and the field goal unit took the field.
However, incumbent Reid Bauer took the snap from Jordan Silver, moved to his left and threw a jump pass to tight end Blake Kern. The pass was behind him, but Kern came back, made a one-handed grab and ran to the end zone to make it 34-28 with 11:24 remaining.
Pittman said the gadget play was the result of last week’s false basket, on which Bauer ran 23 yards for a first down at LSU to set up a small basket in the third quarter.
“Last week Bauer ran over there and we ran him and Kern blocked,” Pittman said. “This week we rigged the block and they both made really good plays there.”
Saban said the Tide was aware of a false potential there.
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“We were trying to cover the guy and we ran into the official,” Saban said. “They had a false field goal last week against LSU, so we worked on it and called the defense we wanted to play against, but we still rubbed off and didn’t play.”
Young quickly led Alabama onto the field, surpassing Hunter’s school record as the tide reached Arkansas 21. tight end Cameron Latu was heading into the end zone after catching a pass to the 5, but cornerback Montaric Brown snatched the ball and retrieved it on the 1 to give Arkansas a chance to take the lead.
The streak fizzled out for Arkansas 7, giving Alabama the field position they needed for one more score.
Facing Arkansas 40 third and 10, Young delivered a deep ball to Williams from the back of the end zone. As Williams slid out of bounds, the ball moved into his hands, but he kept his right hand under the ball and the replay official maintained that he had fixed the grip on the ground to give the Alabama a 42-28 lead.
Arkansas converted a fourth and 11 on Trey Knox’s 16 yards in his last streak. Sanders totaled 34 yards running and catching and the replay booth confirmed his 17-yard catch against linebacker Christian Harris to prepare for the final kick in play.
Alabama wraps up its regular season at Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Saturday, while the Razorbacks end up against Missouri in the Battle Line Rivalry at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Friday in a bid to go 3-0 in trophy games this year. .