Note to future Alabama football opponents: If the Crimson Tide starts a possession first-and-10 at its own 25-yard line, watch out for Damien Harris.
For the second week in a row, the Crimson Tide’s junior running back took it 75 yards for a touchdown in just such a situation on Saturday night. This time it was on the first snap, giving Alabama an early lead on the way to a 41-9 victory over Arkansas at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
A week earlier, Harris did the same thing at Texas A&M to kick-start the Crimson Tide on its second possession.
The play went as designed and as expected: Harris hit a hole on the right side of the line and made a cut across to the open field. No Razorback stood a chance of tracking him down.
“It was a very well-blocked play,” Harris said. “Offensive line did a good job moving the line of scrimmage and receivers were blocking on the perimeter and there was just a really good running lane.”
Taking advantage of Arkansas’ defensive aggression was the key.
“Backers flew over the top and he cut it back and made something happen,” center Bradley Bozeman said. “That’s what our good backs do, they see the hole and they hit it.”
His other touchdown, midway through the first quarter, came from tough running. With Alabama at the Arkansas 4, Harris carried around left end. A Razorback defender broke through to push him back to the 10, but he strode through that would-be tackler, turned it toward the goal line and trucked another defender, then ran through a final, failed attempt to bring him down to punch it in for six points.
“The 4-yard run was a little harder,” he said.
Harris finished with 125 yards on just nine carries with the two scores. He checked out early in the fourth quarter after sustaining an injury playing on the punt return team, but didn’t go to the locker room and stayed on the sideline for the remainder of the contest. He said afterward that he’s fine.
Teammates on both sides of the ball are seeing him step up. Harris leads UA in rushing yards with 625 and in touchdowns with nine. He averages 9.2 yards per carry and 89.3 yards per game.
“He’s taken his game to the next level,” linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said.
Said Bozeman, “He’s playing lights-out every game.”
Harris led an Alabama rushing attack that gained 308 yards on 43 attempts with four touchdowns.
Bo Scarbrough ran for 65 yards on seven attempts, Jalen Hurts added 41 yards and a score on 10 attempts and Josh Jacobs contributed 39 yards on nine attempts. Freshman Najee Harris also had a rushing score.