Alabama rolls any way it wants to
September, 24, 2011
By Chris Low | ESPN.com
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It was a first for Alabama junior cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Nick Saban, who’s never satisfied, almost seemed satisfied Saturday in the locker room following Alabama’s 38-14 beatdown of No. 14-ranked Arkansas at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
For a split-second, Kirkpatrick thought he might be dreaming.
“I knew it was nice because Coach acted like he didn’t even know what to say after the game,” Kirkpatrick said. “Obviously, we did something very impressive. But it’s never enough, never enough for him. He’s happy right now, but he’s going to be mad tomorrow. So we better be ready to roll.”
Nobody’s suggesting that the No. 3-ranked Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0) flirted with perfection in winning for the 23rd time in their past 24 games at home.
But when it comes to tapping into all of your resources to win a football game, it’s one of the more impressive team wins Saban has had at Alabama.
- The Crimson Tide scored on a 61-yard screen pass to Trent Richardson.
- They scored on defense when cornerback DeQuan Menzie took an interception back 25 yards for a touchdown.
- They scored on one of the more electrifying punt returns you’re ever going to see with Marquis Maze weaving his way 83 yards for a touchdown.
- They even scored on a fake field goal with quarterback AJ McCarron going from holder back to the shotgun and then hitting a wide-open Michael Williams on a 37-yard touchdown pass.
Marvin Gentry/US PRESSWIREAlabama running back Trent Richardson rushed 17 times for 126 yards and also caught three passes for 85 yards against Arkansas.
“You saw a little bit of everything from everybody,” Kirkpatrick said. “Everybody came out to ball today, and that’s what we needed.”
Maybe that’s the way the Crimson Tide are going to roll this season.
They can mash you with the running game. They can hit you with big plays. They can suffocate you defensively.
And don’t sleep on their return game in special teams, either.
“Coming into this week, everybody was talking about Arkansas’ receivers and all the big-play guys they had on their team. Our guys make big plays, too,” said Maze, who alternated breaking tackles and ankles on his way to the 10th longest return for a touchdown in Alabama history.
Several times Saturday following the game, Saban emphasized what a great team win it was.
“When I say team win, I’m talking about all the players, all the fans, all the people in the organization who contribute to the success of the team in every way,” Saban said.
Saban understands as well as anybody that this Alabama team is hardly a finished product. Plus, it only gets more difficult next week when Alabama goes on the road for a night game at the Swamp against a Florida team that’s playing with a lot of confidence right now.
That said, Saban also knows that he has a team that can beat you a lot of different ways.
Check out Alabama’s balance on offense. The Crimson Tide rushed for 197 yards and passed for 200 yards. McCarron was the picture of efficiency, finishing 15-of-20, and Alabama didn’t have a single turnover.
Defensively, Alabama had 10 tackles for loss and held Arkansas to 17 rushing yards on 19 attempts. Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson took a wicked beating, as the Crimson Tide pressured him relentlessly.
Saban also praised defensive coordinator Kirby Smart for doing an excellent job of showing one look, but coming with something else.
“I don’t think we had a lot of sacks today, but we sure did affect the quarterback ... and that’s probably the key to the day,” Saban said.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino conceded the obvious afterward, and that is that his club fell short in all three phases.
The Hogs’ defense did a valiant job of keeping Alabama’s offense out of the end zone until the second half.
But the Crimson Tide were more physical, more explosive and more in tune with what it takes to win a game like this.
“We never stopped pressuring,” Kirkpatrick said. “We learned our lesson last year. When you get complacent and relax ... boom, that’s when it all gets away from you.
“This team’s going to keep the pressure on.”
It’s also a team that’s only going to get better.
“We left some points out there, but we moved the ball pretty well all day,” Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones said. “We have playmakers at all positions, and it’s a great feeling knowing any play can pop out of there at any time.”
And if it doesn’t, the Crimson Tide can always go back to old-school Alabama football, which is pounding teams into submission.
The scary thing for the rest of the country is that this team has its choice.