It was not the All-American homecoming that Alabama fans wanted, but the Crimson Tide got it done Saturday night against Arkansas by a score of 27-14.
Senior quarterback Jacob Coker struggled in the first half but rebounded nicely, completing 24-33 passes for 262 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His touchdown passes came on throws of 81 and three yards. Coker also had 17 yards rushing on seven carries.
Alabama’s backs mustered 134 rushing yards on 46 carries.
Junior Derrick Henry led the group with 95 rushing yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Henry has 10 rushing touchdowns this season, and an Alabama-record with a rushing touchdown in 11 straight games. Kenyan Drake chimed in with 29 yards on seven carries.
True freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley emerged with his second straight 100-yard performance. He brought in seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Ridley averaged 18.4 yards per catch, and his touchdown came on an 81-yard grab in the third quarter.
Kenyan Drake totaled 35 yards on four receptions, while senior wideout Richard Mullaney accounted for three catches for 21 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore ArDarius Stewart put in two catches for 38 yards. Tight end O.J. Howard collected 17 receiving yards on three catches. Defensively, Alabama held Arkansas to 42 rushing yards on 24 carries.
Running back Alex Collins managed just 25 yards on 11 attempts, averaging 2.3 yards per carry. The Crimson Tide sacked Brandon Allen three times and generated nine quarterback hurries. Allen completed 15 of 32 pass attempts for 176 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Senior inside linebacker Reggie Ragland anchored Alabama’s defense with eight total tackles, one tackle for loss, a sack, a pass breakup, a forced fumble and two quarterback hurries.
Defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson had five tackles and a quarterback hurry.
Reuben Foster and Jarran Reed had four tackles each. Safety Eddie Jackson was one of five players with three total tackles. He also had a crucial interception in the fourth quarter.
Alabama’s offensive line blocked for 402 total yards and allowed two sacks.
The Crimson Tide averaged 5.3 yards per played and scored on four of five red zone opportunities. Sophomore punter JK Scott was stellar, averaging 50 yards per punt.
He pinned Arkansas inside the 20-yard line on two of four tries. Placekicker Adam Griffith made two of four field goals, while Cyrus Jones returned three punts for 39 yards.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he was proud of the way the team fought in the second half.
“We didn’t play poorly in the first half, we just need to finish drives in the red zone,” Saban said. “I didn’t feel like there was any kind of let down. We just have to continue to play focused. We have a lot of challenges coming up.”
Alabama improves to 5-1 on the season and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference play.
Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.