FAYETTEVILLE — Not many quarterbacks get remembered fondly throwing three interceptions and also fumbling in a 49-30 defeat.
Austin Allen should. Taking more hits than a punching bag with Arkansas trailing from the get go and unable to mount a running game (73 yards net rushing), Arkansas’ junior quarterback put on a gutty display even as his No. 16 Razorbacks were engulfed 49-30 by the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday night before a Reynolds Razorback Stadium full house of 75,459.
Coach Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide, the reigning national and SEC champion, advanced to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the SEC West going into its next SEC game next Saturday afternoon at Tennessee.
Coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks, 4-2, 0-2 in the SEC West, host rival Ole Miss at 6 p.m. on ESPN next Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Officially, Allen absorbed six quarterback sacks but was hit about as often as he threw on his 25 of 48 for 400 yards with three touchdowns.
Junior Razorbacks receiver Jared Cornelius caught 5 for 146 yards, mostly with Allen finishing those passes knocked to the ground.
“Austin is going to fight,” Cornelius said. “He’s going to take the hits. He’s going to pop back up and he’s going to get the play and move on to the next one.”
“Meanwhile Arkansas couldn’t stop Alabama’s offense or defense from scoring.
Alabama’s defense scored each half off Allen. Linebacker Tim Williams returned Allen’s first-half fumble off a hard hit in the back for a 23-yard touchdown.
Cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, three interceptions, went end zone to end zone with a 100-yard touchdown return of an Allen fourth-quarter pass.
Arkansas’ defense got both pounded on the ground strafed by air.
Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 13 of 17 for 253 yards while the Tide netted 264 yards rushing paced by running back Damien Harris’ 122 yard on 13 carries.
“We are disappointed along with our fans and coaches,” Bielema said. “When you have high expectations you have those feelings of disappointment. Those turnovers and nontraditional touchdowns that they have. And we had a touchdown that came off the board and we only came away with three and then their last play we throw it in the end zone and they intercept and take it seven the other way.”
Arkansas never got a first-half defensive handle on the Tide.
“First half we didn’t set the edge and they were getting around the perimeter and we didn’t tackle very well,” Bielema said. “We did play better defense the second half. The guys competed, I know that. But the mistakes we made against the No. 1 team, it’s not going to happen. Alabama does it week and week and out. We are going to take a personal inventory. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you in the SEC West. We have to get our minds right and get ready for the Ole Miss game.”
Senior defensive tackle Taiwan Johnson concurred.
“There were just a lot times the running backs, whoever was running the ball, broke the edge,” Johnson said. “Different formations and things like that I think got the best of us.”
Saban praised his Tide offense.
“I was real pleased with the way our offense started out and we were fantastic in the first half,” Saban said. “I think we had like 300 yards or something more in the first half. I’m not a big stats guy, but we really did a great job of moving the ball. We obviously turned it over a couple of times and left some money on the table.”
Just in the first half, Allen passed for 201 Arkansas yards completing 12 of 22 and getting hit on nearly attempt and was sacked twice.
Allen completed two first-half touchdowns and obviously in Bielema’s view should have had a third. The Arkansas coach was flagged for unsportsmanlike after Arkansas had to settle for Adam McFain’s 25-yard field goal after Allen’s touchdown pass to Drew Morgan was voided by a holding penalty called on offensive tackle Brian Wallace.
“I asked the umpire who threw the flag and it was the umpire,” Bielema said with a little wry sarcasm. “He watches guard to guard and that was a tackle. So I want to compliment him because he went beyond his job.”
While Arkansas mostly had just one offensive dimension in the first half netting but 43 first-half yards rushing on 14 carries, Alabama had the balance of Hurts completing 11 of 13 for 182 yards and a touchdown while the Tide rushed 214 first-half yards. Running backs Damien Harris, Joshua Jacobs, and Bo Scarborough netted 104 on 8 carries, 57 on 3 carries with a touchdown and 34 on 3 carries, respectively while Hurts rushed for two first-half touchdowns.
Jacobs’ 56-yard run was Alabama’s first big play on the game’s first possession. Two plays later Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw, later removed from the game with a broken foot that will end his season, Bielema said, caused Jacobs to fumble with safety De’Andre Coley recovering for Arkansas at its one.
Arkansas punter Toby Baker booted Alabama back to its 27 but it didn’t matter. Harris broke a 57-yard run to the Arkansas five. Hurts ran it from there for the game’s first touchdown.
Arkansas freshman Deon Stewart returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards then fumbled. Alabama’s Mack Wilson recovered at the Arkansas 29. Five plays later Hurts scored again, this time running six yards.
Allen shrugged off a 9-yard sack and an incompletion to connect 20 yards with Cornelius on third down. Cornelius caught another for 16 and ran for eight before Allen threw his first touchdown, a 24-yarder to senior tight end Jeremy Sprinkle of White Hall at 1:54 of the first quarter.
Alabama’s defense scored its sixth touchdown of 2015. Allen fumbled, hit in the back by D’Shawn Hand. Linebacker Tim Williams snared it on one bounced and ran 23 yards for Alabama’s 21-7 lead.
Harris, 164 total offensive yards in the first half, evaded two would-be tacklers taking a Hurt pass for a 56-yard touchdown.
It was Arkansas’ next possession that Allen completed a 29-yard pass to running back Rawleigh Williams and appeared to thrown the TD to Morgan taken away by the hold.
Alabama led 28-10 after McFain’s field goal.
Arkansas and Alabama traded touchdowns ending the half.
Scarborough’s 21-yard TD capped a 4-play 61-yard drive.
Cornelius, 93 first-half receiving yards, took a reception 57 yards from Allen before Allen’s 16-yard touchdown with 56 seconds left o a 35-17 first half.
Both teams turned it over in the third quarter.
A 67-yard pass from Hurts to ArDarius Stewart got jarred loose by Scoota Harris, the freshman linebacker subbing for Greenlaw.
Arkansas cornerback Ryan Pulley recovered the fumble but Allen threw an interception pilfered by cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick at the Arkansas 18.
Hurts’ 4-yard pass to receiver Calvin Ridley achieved the Alabama touchdown for a 42-17 lead with 11:10 left in the third quarter.
An Arkansas third drive propelled by Alabama charged with roughing the passer ended with Allen intercepted on fourth and 10, but Arkansas linebacker Dwayne Eugene got it back picking off a Hurts pass and returning it eight to the Alabama 36.
Allen completed a 23-yard pass to Morgan and completed his 10-yard TD to Hatcher on third down cutting the lead to 42-24 with 3:57 in the third quarter.
Including an incredible third-down 22-yard pass under pressure to Rawleigh Williams after getting creamed for a 9-yard sack, Allen drove the Hogs to the Alabama 20 until Fitzpatrick picked off the pass in the end zone and returned it for the 100-yard touchdown with Allen the last man blocked.
Completing passes of 20, 24 and 37 yards to Camden’s Dominique Reed, Cornelius and Hollister, Allen rallied the Razorbacks for a 94-yard drive completed by Williams’ 5-yard touchdown run with 3:18 left.
Though at his Minnesota home until late Thursday night upon the heart attack death of his father the previous Saturday, Arkansas junior center Frank Ragnow started and played the entire game.
“It was amazing,” Bielema said. “We weren’t going to play him depending on his state of mind, but he is a very strong kid and an incredible football player.”