Ninth-ranked Alabama beats UA in SEC opener

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Junior Glen Coffee rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns as the ninth-ranked University of Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the University of Arkansas, 49-14, in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

The loss drops Arkansas to 2-1 on the season while the Crimson Tide improved to 3-0.

Arkansas had 165 total yards rushing and receiving from junior running back Michael Smith.

“He showed a tremendous amount of courage and competitiveness,” Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said.

After falling behind 21-0, Arkansas scored once in the second quarter and had another chance with the ball on the one-yard line at the close of the half.

“We were in position a few times,” Petrino said. “Look at the halftime stats, we have 47 plays and they have only 15 plays. You’d not think the score would be what it was. We’ve got a lot of learning left, and we’ve got to not beat ourselves. We have a long way to go, and we’re going to stay positive and keep working.”

The Razorbacks were unable to overcome three interceptions by senior quarterback Casey Dick, two which went for long touchdown returns for Alabama in the first half.

“Those were bad plays,” Petrino said of the interceptions. “He’s (Dick) executed well up until this point. We just need to execute better. He needs to come back from it. That’s why we kept him in there to get some work, and we have a lot of work left to do.”

Alabama kept the ball on the ground most of the contest, grinding out yardage with junior Coffee.

The 6-1 tailback set the tone of the game midway through the first quarter as he broke the line of scrimmage and sprinted for an 87-yard touchdown with 6:52 on the clock.

It was part of a three-touchdown opening quarter as the Alabama offense converted its first two possessions into scores then added another with a 63-yard interception return by Javier Arenas.

Arkansas responded with a touchdown drive to start the second quarter of nine plays and 47 yards, capped by a 12-yard scoring strike from Dick to tight end Andrew Davie, to trim the margin to 21-7.

Bama answered with a five-play, 68-yard drive finished by a 25-yard touchdown pass from John Parker Wilson for a 28-7 lead.

In spite of the 21-point spread, the Razorbacks picked up momentum and were driving on their next possession. Arkansas advanced inside the Crimson Tide 30, but a second interception of Dick was returned for a touchdown, this time a 74-yard effort by Justin Woodall.

Arkansas had another first-half drive thwarted deep in Alabama territory. Dick marched Arkansas 76 yards in 13 plays, but Bama held on fourth and one at the one yard line to end the first half.

“You’d like to get it in to finish the half and know that you are getting the ball to start the second half,” Petrino said. “It could have really changed the momentum.”

Alabama had the only score of the third quarter with a 31-yarder by Coffee.

Freshman Tyler Wilson came on in the fourth quarter, converting fourth down with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Michael Smith.

“He does an excellent job in shotgun, and first drive he moved us in for a touchdown,” Petrino said.

For the game, the Crimson Tide rushed for 328 yards on 35 carries. The Tide’s yards per carry were buoyed by the long TD runs by Coffee and a 62-yarder late in the game by Roy Upchurch.

Smith led Arkansas on the ground with 98 yards on 19 carries and in the air with 67 yards and a touchdown on six catches.

Razorbacks are on the road next week at Texas.