September 24, 2011
Alabama 38, Arkansas 14.
As Nick Saban knows better than anyone, and is certain to remind his team repeatedly over the coming week: There is no such thing as perfection. This afternoon was no exception. The Crimson Tide allowed two touchdowns. They had five penalties. They punted six times. They converted only 5 of 13 third downs. The wide receivers didn't do a whole lot. At one point he was distracted by the inexcusable sound of a child's laughter.
But as lopsided wins over top-15 division rivals go, this one was … complete. The Tide scored on defense, on a tipped interception run back by DeQuan Menzie. They scored on special teams, twice, first on a 37-yard pass from A.J. McCarron to Michael Williams on a fake field goal, then on a dramatic, winding 83-yard punt return by Marquis Maze that will be a mainstay on highlight packages for the rest of the year. They were methodical on offense, sloughing off half the second quarter on a 13-play, 77-yard march for a go-ahead field goal. They were explosive on offense, scoring on a 61-yard reception by Trent Richardson in the third quarter, on his way to 208 total yards for the game.
They were also 'Bama as usual: The offense didn't turn the ball over. The defense bludgeoned Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, even without registering a sack, and forced six three-and-outs. They held the Razorbacks to 17 yards rushing (14 coming on one play) and 226 yards total offense, the Hogs' worst output in three years. The only other time Arkansas has been held below 17 points in that span: The last time it was in Bryant-Denny Stadium, in a 35-7 loss to Alabama in 2009, to a very similar-looking Crimson Tide team that went on to win the BCS championship.
Four games in, this edition remains virtually indistinguishable from that one in any significant way, right down to the quietly efficient quarterback (McCarron) and the one-two punch at tailback (Richardson and Eddie Lacy). If you're determined to nitpick, fine, the 2011 model can't offer anyone on the order of Julio Jones in the receiving corps. If there's a game on the schedule that puts the spotlight on the passing game, at this point, it will be a major upset.