The suspense is over. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley is the real deal.
He returned to Bryant-Denny Stadium last week, after posting his first career 100-yard receiving performance against Georgia. Crimson Tide fans did not receive its overall pig roast; however, the true freshman and Florida native gave Arkansas’ defensive backfield headaches.
For a second straight week, Ridley led the team in receiving with nine catches for 140 yards, averaging 18.4 yards per reception. His 81-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Jacob Coker was the spark for Alabama’s offense in the third quarter. It was a defense battle up to that point, with Arkansas leading the Crimson Tide 7-3. Ridley executed his route to perfection.
His touchdown gave Alabama a 10-7 lead, and would result in the Crimson Tide outscoring Arkansas 24-7 in the second half. Alabama head coach Nick Saban brought up Ridley’s touchdown in the post-game press conference He said it was a “momentum changer.”
“I thought from that time on, we dominated them [Arkansas] pretty well until they hit the scramble pass at the end,” Saban said.
Ridley’s 81-yard reception was one of two touchdown passes off Coker’s arm Saturday night.
He threw one to senior wide receiver Richard Mullaney in the fourth quarter from three yards away, but Coker said his touchdown pass to Ridley in the third quarter “changed everybody.”
“Momentum kind of came our way,” Coker said. “We have to help the defense out more than what we’ve been doing.”
The Crimson Tide secured homecoming with a 27-14 victory. Ridley is now Alabama’s leading receiver, posting 385 yards and three touchdowns on 31 receptions through six games.
Alabama will head to Kyle Field (College Station, Texas) next week and face Texas A&M.
Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.