FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Get too close to Big 12 territory and a Big 12 game might break out.
No. 1 Alabama’s 65-31 win against Arkansas on Saturday featured offense from the first play of the day until (almost) the last. The Crimson Tide offense was unstoppable, but the defense gave up 31 points and more than 400 yards.
Perhaps due to close proximity from the northwest corner of Arkansas to Kansas and Oklahoma, prominent parts of the ‘Land That Defense Forgot,’ or perhaps because Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) is still working to correct some defensive issues ranging from depth to a lack of a consistent outside pass rush, the Crimson Tide struggled at times to get off the field.
“We scored 65 points so you can’t complain too much,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “But you don’t feel like you beat a team when you give up 31 points.”
It ultimately didn’t matter with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback conducting the offense like a symphony. Tagovailoa threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns, including one that got a little extra help from a Henry Ruggs III fumble recovery and run.
“Tua did a fantastic job,” said Arkansas coach Chad Morris. “They have a tremendous offense. You see them on film and you think you have an idea about their team speed. But until you see them on the field, and the separation that can get, you don’t get the full effect.”
Arkansas might have made things a bit more interesting except for two critical first-half fumbles, including one when the Razorbacks lost the ball at the Alabama 1-yard line. A touchdown at that point would have cut the UA lead to 21-14.
Instead, Dylan Moses knocked the ball away for Razorback quarterback Ty Storey and Deionte Thompson recovered at the 1. The Alabama offense then went 99 yards in five plays, putting their stamp firmly on the game.
Tagovailoa threw to tight end Irv Smith Jr. on the game’s first play and Smith rumbled 76 yards for a score to light the scoring fuse. Tagovailoa appeared to have another touchdown pass to Smith, but the tight end fumbled at the 12-yard line, only to see Ruggs scoop the loose ball and score. Tagovailoa also had touchdown passes of 42 and 60 yards in the second quarter.
Senior running back Damien Harris had his first 100-yard rushing game of the year, gaining 111 yards on 15 carries and scoring twice. Brian Robinson Jr. added a rushing touchdown and defensive back Shyheim Carter returned an interception 44 yards for a score, his second pick-six of the season.
But the Razorbacks also had a 100-yard running back, Rakeem Boyd (15 for 102) and had 22 first downs. Storey threw for 230 yards although it could not avert a fifth straight loss for Arkansas.
The Crimson Tide hosts Missouri in the annual homecoming game next Saturday.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.