Alabama Football not looking past Razorbacks
Arkansas working on dealing with adversity
By Dave Friedman
Top ranked Alabama looks to make it seven straight wins to start the season as they host Arkansas Saturday night. The Tide are 6-0 on the season and 3-0 in SEC play. The Razorbacks began the year 3-0 but have dropped four straight. Arkansas is 0-3 in league play. Alabama has won six straight matchups against the Razorbacks including last years 52-0 drubbing in Fayetteville.
The Crimson Tide have outscored opponents 149-16 during the past four weeks. Kentucky’s third quarter touchdown last Saturday was the first Alabama had allowed since September 14, a span of 14 straight quarters without allowing a TD. The Tide knocked off Kentucky 48-7 in a game that they out-gained the Cats 668-170. AJ McCarron passed for 359 yards in the contest while TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake both surpassed 100 yards on the ground.
For a fourth straight week Arkansas faces a team ranked among the AP’s Preseason Top 10. The Razorbacks lost home games against Texas A&M 45-33, Florida 30-10, and last week to South Carolina 52-7. Over the three game stretch Arkansas has turned the ball over seven times and caused just one takeaway. Last week the Gamecocks outgained Arkansas 537-248.
Despite recent struggles, Alabama coach Nick Saban is not looking past the Razorbacks.
“We don’t really want to look at those results,” Saban said. “We’d rather look at technically what they’re capable of doing and what they’ve done well as a team. I think the game last week, they still ran the ball effectively. … We’re more concerned about how we play, how we progress, how we improve as a team and have total respect for Arkansas’ players and what their capabilities are.”
While Arkansas has struggled in the passing game, they have rushed the ball well. Freshman Alex Collins is averaging more than 100 yards a game and nearly six yards per carry. Sophomore Jonathan Williams has picked up 6.5 yards a run and tallied more than 80 yards a game.
Stopping the run has been a different story. Over the past three weeks Arkansas has allowed more than 200 yards a game on the ground. First year Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema has the utmost respect for the Tide’s ground game.
“With Yeldon, in particular, he has extremely good vision,” Bielema said. “He seems to hit the hole, not only against what’s blocked., but he always has some good yards after contact. Drake is a physical runner that keeps his legs moving and they’re both guys with the ability to turn a four-yard play into an eight-yard play because of the way they run the football. I appreciate the way they roll in there and stay very consistent.”
While the Tide rushing game has averaged more than 240 yards a game over the past three weeks, it is Alabama’s defense that continues to be elite. The Crimson Tide rank second in the nation allowing just over 11 points a game, and are eighth in the country in total defense. However, Saban feels that the Tide have lacked the big play.
“Obviously we haven’t gotten a lot of turnovers on defense,” Saban said. “I think there’s times when we’ve given up too many big plays on defense.”
Alabama has forced nine turnovers thus far this year. Over the last two weeks the Tide have created just one turnover. Kentucky’s lone touchdown came on a 30 yard pass.
Despite losing four straight, Bielema is trying to keep spirits high in Arkansas.
“That’s the same team that has done some pretty positive things,” Bielema said. “Last week, that was our number one emphasis, adversity. When adversity strikes, you don’t try to fight it alone, you try to fight it together. I think that’s the part that we’ve got to rally around.”
There has been plenty of adversity in the passing game for the Razorbacks. Quarterback Brandon Allen has completed just 48-percent of his passes this year with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
In Alabama’s dominating with over the Razorbacks last season the Tide out gained Arkansas 438-137. Alabama did not turn the ball over while Arkansas lost three fumbles and Allen was intercepted twice. The Tide out-rushed Arkansas 225-58 in the game.