Sept. 19, 2008
By Barry Allen
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - It was as far from normal as you could get, considering the two players involved were making their first career starts in an SEC road game.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Brodie Croyle and junior running back Shaud Williams were not fazed by the environment or the atmosphere of an SEC road game.
Croyle handed the ball off to Williams and in the blink of an eye, the Tide's A-back blazed an 80-yard trail into the Arkansas end zone, setting the tone for Alabama's 30-12 win at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Williams' touchdown run marked the first time since 1973 that Alabama scored on its first offensive play of the football game. The Crimson Tide also scored on its first offensive snap against Tennessee on Oct. 20, 1973 when quarterback Gary Rutledge threw an 80-yard pass to Wayne Wheeler en route to a 42-21 win at Legion Field. Williams' TD run also ranks as the third-longest in Crimson Tide lore.
Alabama's offense did not stop there. In fact, the Crimson Tide rolled up 218 total yards in the first quarter and built a 17-0 lead with12:26 left in the first half. Alabama had 147 rushing yards and 71 passing yards against Arkansas in the first 15 minutes of play. The 218 yards were the most by Alabama in a quarter in 2002, surpassing its 198-yard effort against Middle Tennessee in the season opener.
After an Arkansas punt, Alabama's offense went back to work, starting from its own 20-yard line. The Tide moved 80 yards in seven plays, capped by Croyle's 28-yard pass to Sam Collins for a 14-0 lead with 8:15 left in the first quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Alabama took over at its own 24-yard line with 2:11 left in the first quarter and used an 11-play, 77-yard drive to stretch its lead to 17-0 on Brian Bostick's 28-yard field goal.
Arkansas recovered from the early barrage and after a partially blocked punt took over at its own 24-yard line. The Razorbacks moved 76 yards in seven plays and scored on Matt Jones' 7-yard run to pull to within 17-7 at the 5:25 mark of the second quarter.
Alabama's next possession ended with a bizarre twist and gave Arkansas solid field position. The Tide moved from its own 20-yard line to the Arkansas 42-yard line in nine plays, but faced a fourth-and-two when punter Lane Bearden faked a punt and tackled after a 1-yard gain. Bearden was injured on the play and left the game with a torn ACL.
The Tide forced a turnover on the very next play as Waine Bacon intercepted a Jones pass at the Alabama 29. Another exchange of punts ended the half.
A personal foul penalty against Alabama gave Arkansas great field position to start the third quarter and Jones and the Razorbacks capitalized. The Razorbacks drove to the Tide 16-yard line before settling for a Brendan O'Donohoe 33-yard field that pulled Arkansas to within 17-10 with 12:44 left in the third quarter.
Alabama tacked on another Bostick field goal to take a 20-10 lead with 9:33 left in the third quarter, but missed a chance to stretch its lead to 17 points when Williams fumbled at the Arkansas 12-yard line with less than two minutes left in the quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Alabama added another field goal as Bostick's 37-yard kick gave the Tide a 23-10 lead with 12:10 left in the game.
The Tide put the game away after getting the ball at midfield following an Arkansas punt. On the first play, Croyle hit a streaking Zach Fletcher for a 50-yard TD pass and Bostick's extra point gave the Tide a 30-10 with 9:51 left in the game.
The Razorbacks were awarded a safety in the final 30 seconds of the game when Alabama ran the ball out of the back of the end zone on a punt attempt from the four-yard line.
Alabama ran for 302 yards in the win over Arkansas and finished the game with 552 yards of total offense. Santonio Beard and Williams both eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the Tide. Beard was the leading rusher with 134 yards on 21 carries. Williams added 119 yards on 11 carries and averaged 10.8 yards per play. He also caught two passes for 88 yards, including a 75-yard screen pass from Croyle.
Croyle, who was named the National Freshman of the Week, completed 12-of-24 passes for 285 yards and two TDs in his first career start.
The Tide defense held Arkansas to 127 yards through the air and recorded two interceptions and 12 pass break-ups in the win. Gerald Dixon led the way with nine tackles, while Charles Jones added eight stops. The Tide also added 11 quarterback pressures in the win.