NCF Nation: Hogs-Tide-092411

Alabama rolls any way it wants to

September, 24, 2011

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.
    [+] EnlargeAlabama's Trent Richardson
    Marvin Gentry/US PRESSWIREAlabama running back Trent Richardson rushed 17 times for 126 yards and also caught three passes for 85 yards against Arkansas.

  • 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.

“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.

Schlabach: Alabama's secondary steps up

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Arkansas had just stuffed Alabama's offense on three straight plays from the Razorbacks' 1-yard line, forcing the Crimson Tide to kick a 20-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead with about 5 minutes left to play in the first half of Saturday's game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

On the sideline, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban could sense his team's momentum slipping away.

"We had the ball inside the one and we ended up having to settle for a field goal," Saban said. "I think the momentum of the game changed a little bit right there."

But three plays later, Alabama cornerback DeQuan Menzie changed the complexion of the Crimson Tide's SEC opener for good. With the Razorbacks facing third-and-10 at their 20, quarterback Tyler Wilson dropped back and tried to throw to receiver Greg Childs on the left side. Menzie batted the ball up into the air with his hand, grabbed it and ran 25 yards for a touchdown, giving the Tide a 17-7 lead at the half.

The No. 3 Crimson Tide added two quick touchdowns in the third quarter -- the first one on receiver Marquis Maze's spectacular 83-yard punt return and the second on tailback Trent Richardson's 61-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass -- to rout the No. 14 Razorbacks 38-14 win in front of a sold-out crowd of 101,821 fans.

"To intercept and score on defense was probably huge," Saban said. "That was a big turning point in the game from a momentum standpoint. You know, we need to make more plays like that, get more turnovers."

For Mark Schlabach's full story, click here.

Video: Alabama RB Trent Richardson

September, 24, 2011

Chris Low talks to Alabama Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson following their win over the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Video: Alabama's Dont'a Hightower

September, 24, 2011

Chris Low talks to Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower about the Tide’s 38-14 win over Arkansas.

Alabama's C.J. Mosley injures elbow

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama played most of its 38-14 victory over Arkansas on Saturday without starting linebacker C.J.Mosley, who injured his elbow.

The Crimson Tide could be without Mosley for two to three weeks, which isn't great timing, especially with Florida coming up next week.

Mosley plays the inside linebacker position on passing downs for Alabama and is one of the Tide's best cover guys. Florida runs a steady diet of speedy running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps on passing routes out of the backfield and slot, and Mosley would play a big role in covering those guys.

Junior Dont'a Hightower moved inside on passing downs Saturday against Arkansas after Mosley was injured in the first quarter. The 6-4, 260-pound Hightower normally lines up outside as a rusher on passing downs.

Instant analysis: Alabama 38, Arkansas 14

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Third-ranked Alabama scored a pair of special teams touchdowns and also scored on defense to remain unbeaten and romp past No. 14-ranked Arkansas 38-14 on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Here’s an instant analysis from the game:

How the game was won: Alabama won the battle up front, and it wasn’t even close for much of the game. Arkansas was unable to run the ball with any success. It was 7-7 early, but Alabama broke out to a 31-7 lead five minutes into the third quarter on Trent Richardson's 61-yard touchdown catch and run and never looked back.

Turning point: Alabama led 10-7 late in the second quarter and was forced to kick a field goal after having it third-and-goal from inside the 1. Arkansas seemingly had the momentum after keeping the Crimson Tide out of the end zone. But on the ensuing possession, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson was intercepted by DeQuan Menzie, who raced 25 yards for a touchdown to make it a 17-7 game at the half. And then in the opening minutes of the second half, Alabama's Marquis Maze returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown to make it a 24-7 game.

Stat of the game: Arkansas was held to just 17 rushing yards and converted only 4-of-15 on third down.

Player of the game: Richardson finished with 211 combined rushing and receiving yards. He had 126 yards rushing on 17 carries and also had a 61-yard touchdown catch and run on a screen pass.

Unsung hero: Menzie had one of the biggest defensive plays of the day on his interception return for a touchdown, and he was also matched up against Arkansas senior receiver Joe Adams for much of the game. Adams, one of the top open-field playmakers in the league, was held to 37 receiving yards.

What it means: Alabama proved emphatically that its defense is the real deal and that the Tide are going to be a major player for their second national championship in the past three years. The fact that they won this game at home is not overly surprising, but the way they won it certainly is. Arkansas was never really in the game after Menzie’s interception return for a touchdown, and now Arkansas has to face Texas A&M next week in Arlington, Texas. This season could get away from the Hogs in a hurry if they don’t win next week.

Tide's Dre Kirkpatrick back in game

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick went down in the third quarter, it looked like he might have injured his shoulder.

He came off the field holding that arm and went to the locker room. But he's back out there now on the field, so Alabama fans can breathe a big sigh of relief.

He's a big part of this defense and has tackled extremely well today. He's also one of the main reasons this secondary has gone from a liability last season at times to a strength this season.

Alabama, leading 38-14, has totally taken Arkansas' talented receiving corps out of this game.

Scoring from long distance

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Everybody talked about how explosive Arkansas was coming into this game and how many big-play guys were on that Hogs' roster.

Turns out Alabama has a few guys who can break the big one, too.

Alabama is beating Arkansas 31-14 in third quarter, and all four of the Crimson Tide's touchdowns have been 25 yards or longer.

The last two were spectacular, especially Marquis Maze's 83-yard punt return, where he showed off his speed and his moves.

Maze gets my vote as the SEC's most underrated player to this point.

Trent Richardson then took his turn to show off his speed on a 61-yard touchdown after gathering in a screen pass and leaving everybody in his wake.

There was some grumbling here in Tuscaloosa about whether or not this offense was good enough or explosive enough to win a national championship.

That's yet to be answered, especially since Alabama has scored just one offensive touchdown, but there are certainly enough guys on this roster capable of making game-changing plays.

At the half: Alabama 17, Arkansas 7

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 3-ranked Alabama scored on defense and scored on special teams and leads No. 14-ranked Arkansas 17-7 at the half Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Here's a quick halftime analysis:

Turning point: Arkansas held Alabama to a short field goal after the Crimson Tide had it first-and-goal from inside the 1, a stand that seemed to give the Hogs some momentum. But on Arkansas' ensuing possession, quarterback Tyler Wilson was intercepted on a third-down play, and Alabama's DeQuan Menzie returned it 25 yards for a touchdown after deflecting it to himself, giving the Tide a 10-point halftime lead.

Stat of the half: The Hogs had minus-6 rushing yards on seven attempts and had six plays where they gained zero yards or less.

Stat of the half II: The teams combined to go 3-of-13 on third down. Arkansas was 2-of-7 and Alabama 1-of-6.

Best call: Alabama's Nick Saban called for a fake field goal in the first quarter, and it popped wide open for a touchdown. The Crimson Tide initially lined up for a 54-yard field goal, but AJ McCarron dropped back into the shotgun after initially lining up as the holder. He found tight end Michael Williams wide open for a 37-yard touchdown to give Alabama an early 7-0 lead.

Third-and-long burns Hogs

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Arkansas got away with converting on third-and-11 to tie the game at 7-7 in the first quarter.

But you simply can’t make a living against this Alabama defense on third-and-long.

The Hogs found out the hard way in the second quarter when Tyler Wilson's third-and-10 pass was deflected by Alabama cornerback DeQuan Menzie to himself, and Menzie raced 25 yards for a touchdown to give Alabama a 17-7 lead.

Alabama's defensive backs all cover well, but they also hit like linebackers and don't miss tackles. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick looks a lot more physical than he did last year.

The Crimson Tide have yet to score an offensive touchdown, but sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron has done a nice job of standing in the pocket and showing his poise.

At least twice, he’s dumped the ball off to Trent Richardson for big gains.

Arkansas' defense makes stand

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- One of the biggest wins of the game so far goes to Arkansas’ defense, which held Alabama to a field goal after the Crimson Tide had it first-and-goal from inside the 1 in the second quarter.

It’s the kind of stand everybody wondered if this Arkansas defense had in it.

Willy Robinson’s unit answered that question, at least early.

Surprisingly, Alabama’s Trent Richardson only got one touch down on the goal line, and that came on third down. He never had a chance as Arkansas linebackers Alonzo Highsmith and Jerry Franklin were on top of Richardson as soon as he got it.

Alabama tried a quarterback sneak on first down and gave it to Jalston Fowler on second down.

Richardson was motioning to the sideline for the coaches to call his number, but was swarmed under when he got the ball a few seconds later.

Alabama gets special teams lift

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The thought coming in was that Arkansas might have an edge on special teams.

But it was Alabama that struck first in the kicking game with a beautifully designed 37-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to tight end Michael Williams on a fake field goal.

The Crimson Tide lined up for what would have been a 54-yard field goal. McCarron was the holder, but jumped back into the shotgun at quarterback. Williams was lined up on the line, and nobody covered him down the field.

In fact, Arkansas defensive tackle DeQuinta Jones was the one chasing Williams.

There's still a lot of football to be played. But in big games like this, rarely does the team that gives up a special teams touchdown win the game.

Expect Hogs, Tide to open up playbook

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- As good as Alabama has been on defense this season, Nick Saban conceded earlier this week that the Crimson Tide haven't shown a lot of their different packages.

Several of the Alabama players also hinted that Arkansas could expect to see some things the Hogs haven't seen on tape this season.

Staying away from negative yardage plays will be key for the Hogs, who want no part of being in third-and-long a bunch on Saturday.

Arkansas also hasn't had to show a whole lot on offense, although Saban said what makes Bobby Petrino's offense so difficult to defend is how multiple he is.

You have to prepare for everything, because the Hogs will run just about anything out of any formation.

Test time for Hogs, Tide

September, 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It’s a picture-perfect day at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The sun’s out. There’s a little breeze in the air, and here in a little bit we find out a lot about Alabama and Arkansas’ football teams.

If Arkansas is going to win this game, the Hogs will almost certainly have to hit some big plays in the passing game. Alabama’s defense is too good to expect a lot of long scoring drives. The Crimson Tide lead the country with 21 three-and-outs.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said this week that Arkansas’ top four receivers were the best set of receivers on any one team in college football.

You talk to a lot of people around the league, and there's a growing feeling that Arkansas’ Joe Adams is perhaps the SEC's best playmaker in the open field since Florida’s Percy Harvin.

The Hogs will certainly make every effort to get the ball to Adams in space today, and he’s also returned two punts for touchdowns this season.

The jury is still out on how far back Greg Childs is after missing the last part of last season with a torn patellar tendon. He missed last week’s game because of the death of his grandmother and was pretty quiet in the first two games.

Childs is a stretch-the-field guy, and the Hogs could also use a big game from him to help soften up that Alabama defense.

This is also a prove-it-to-me game for Alabama’s secondary, which was a liability at times last season because of inexperience, but has been one of the most improved units on the team so far this season.

Teams are completing just 38.5 percent of their passes against Alabama’s defense, which leads the country.

Alabama junior cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, whose improved consistency has mirrored that of the entire secondary, knows what’s coming Saturday.

“This is one of those games where as a kid you dreamed of having the ball thrown your way,” Kirkpatrick said. “I know they’re going to try me, and they have great receivers. But I’m going to be ready for whatever they throw at me.”