Nick Saban got his first significant win as coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide. It didn’t come easy though. He watched his team march to a quick 21-0 lead and then force a turnover. Just as it looked like the Tide was going to go up by four touchdowns, they coughed the ball up and gave up an easy 7. They followed this up with another interception another easy score.
After seeming to get their act together and going up 31-10, they gave up four unanswered touchdowns.
The final outcome was still in doubt until, with 8 seconds left on the clock, quarterback John Parker Wilson found receiver Matt Caddell in the endzone to regain the lead.
Wilson hits Caddell in final seconds to keep Saban’s Tide unbeaten, Ian R. Rapoport, Birmingham News
University of Alabama coach Nick Saban is already beginning to wipe clean the memories of the previous four years. Former coach Mike Shula went 49 games without a fourth-quarter comeback. In Saban’s short tenure, that devastating statistic is gone after three games.
With 8 seconds left Saturday night, quarterback John Parker Wilson found senior Matt Caddell in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard score to cap a 73-yard drive and give Alabama a 41-38 win over No. 16 Arkansas.
“Exciting, huh?” Saban said.
Even after allowing the Razorbacks 28 unanswered points, and even after taking the ball with 73 yards to go and 2 minutes 13 seconds left, Alabama was still able to march down for a win.
Four years without a fourth-quarter comeback? Old news.
“Been a loooong time,” said Wilson, who finished 24-of-45 passing for 327 yards with four touchdowns. “It’s good to fight like that. To be up, to be down, to come back and win, it says a lot about our football team. We spent all spring, all summer, all fall talking about the fourth quarter, and we pulled it out.”
On that final drive, Wilson was 7-of-10 for 73 yards, and he was helped by two Razorback pass-interference penalties. It ended with Caddell leaping over Arkansas defender Jamar Love in the end zone, sending the Alabama players toward that end of the field to create a dog-pile around Caddell and sending the 92,318 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium into delirium.
As for Saban, he calmly held up one finger, signaling an extra point. Leigh Tiffin – last year’s goat for his three missed field goals and a missed extra point – knocked it through. Tiffin also made a 42-yard field goal with 4:20 left to keep his team alive.
Heisman Trophy hopeful and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden gained 195 yards on 33 carries with two touchdowns, while sidekick Felix Jones had 106 rushing yards. The duo left the defense ragged, but happy. “I feel pretty good,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “We came out with a win.”
The Tide controlled the game from the outset, scoring first and building a quick 21-0 lead. In the process, receiver DJ Hall became the program’s all-time leading receiver by breaking a record of 2,070 yards held by Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome. Hall had 172 yards on six catches with two touchdowns for the game.
Alabama made one final stop before halftime, leaving the Razorbacks to settle for a field goal. The half ended 21-10 Alabama.
Coming out of the locker room, Alabama caught a break when Arkansas receiver London Crawford fumbled after a 22-yard reception. Ezekial Knight recovered it and that turned into a Tiffin field goal to make it 24-10. No game has been complete without a big play from the punt-return game and Javier Arenas. This time, Arenas fielded a 34-yard punt on his own 40, stepped out of a tackle, then raced to his right down the sideline. The result was a 58-yard return to the 2. Wilson rolled left and found tight end Nick Walker for a 2-yard touchdown to make it 31-10.
Then it came crashing down.
The Hogs marched it right down the field in five plays, as Jones and McFadden combined for 59 yards, and quarterback Casey Dick found Andrew Davie for a 2-yard score.
That made it 31-17 late in third, then a fumbled quarterback-center exchange and an interception by Wilson were costly. Suddenly, with 12:05 remaining, the game was tied at 31. When Dick found Peyton Hills on a 7-yard touchdown, Arkansas led 38-31.
“The fumbled snap, that’s a basic fundamental,” Saban said. “The interception was not a good throw. Those are the kinds of things we need to learn from and grow from and eliminate.”
No matter. On its first try to tie the game, Alabama found itself with fourth-and-6 from the 25. Saban opted for a field goal. “It was the right thing to do,” he said. “I asked the defense, `Can you stop them?’ They said they could.”
All the defense had to do was stop Arkansas – without McFadden, who had a slight concussion – one more time to give the offense the ball back. “We do that in practice,” Johnson said. “It’s called, `Get the ball back.’”
The result was the game-winning drive.
Tide blows big lead, but thrives, survives with late TD drive, Paul Gattis, Huntsville Times
“I’m proud of the way our players competed in the game,” Saban said. “We always talk about playing 60 minutes and to score with 8 seconds left, it’s an easy way to reinforce a point.”
It was Alabama’s first last-minute touchdown for a win since the 1996 win over Auburn.
Tide comes back to upset Arkansas 41-38, Christopher Walsh, Tuscaloosa News
It went from thereâ€™s no way the University of Alabama football team was going to lose, to there was no way it was going to win, to how on earth did the Crimson Tide pull that off?
Although Coach Nick Saban didnâ€™t want Saturday night to be about absolution or an attempt to get even for last yearâ€™s double-overtime loss to Arkansas, thatâ€™s exactly what happened despite his best efforts.
After blowing a 21-point lead, when the offense self-destructed and the defense apparently could no longer slow down the Razorbacksâ€™ running game, the Tide had one final chance with 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining and 73 yards to go. Amazingly, it came through, with senior wide receiver Matt Caddell making three of his nine receptions to help set up his clutch 4-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone for an unbelievable 41-38 victory.
â€œExciting night, huh?â€ Saban said after his first SEC home game at the Capstone. â€œIâ€™m certainly proud of the way our players played. You always talk about playing 60 minutes.â€
In many ways, it was a typical Alabama-Arkansas game, hard-hitting with injuries and helmets flying off peopleâ€™s heads, not to mention last-minute dramatics. Only this time the Razorbacks felt the heartache, while the Tide improved to 3-0 overall, 2-0 in the SEC to likely secure at least an inside track to a Jan. 1 bowl game.
â€œI knew if I could get up there â€¦ â€ Caddell said of his leaping catch that sent both the Bryant-Denny Stadium faithful and the Alabama sideline into pandemonium.
â€œAmazing,â€ said sophomore Javier Arenas, who had a 58-yard punt return, after the locker room. â€œI canâ€™t describe it.â€
Welcome to the Nick Saban era, Bama fans.
After twice blowing 21-point leads, Alabama marched down the field from its own 27 over the final 2:13, mostly on the Wilson-to-Caddell connection. Wilson hit Caddell across the middle for a 19-yard completion and two 9-yarders to move the ball across midfield. Kevin Woods and Matterral Richardson were both whistled for pass interference, Richardson on a third-and-9 play, to set Alabama up with a first down at the 13. After Wilson hit Keith Brown for a 9-yarder, he found a leaping Caddell in the left side of the end zone two plays later, sending the crowd into a frenzy and prompting a celebratory pileup on the receiver.
“I knew if I got it up there and gave him a chance, he’d make a play,” said Wilson, who was 7-for-8 for 56 yards on the final drive. “I got the ball outside and gave Matt a chance to make the play, and he did.”
Alabama didn’t manage a come-from-behind win in the fourth quarter during Mike Shula’s four-year tenure.
The Tide’s decision to settle for Leigh Tiffin’s 42-yard field goal to make it 38-34 paid off when Arkansas was stopped on its next possession. McFadden sat out the series with a a slight concussion, coach Houston Nutt said.
“I did have confidence that we could stop them,” Saban said. “I asked the players on the sidelines, ‘Can we stop them?’ They said they could, so I believed them. And they did. “It was the right thing to do.”
“I felt like our team did not play in the second half like we needed to play,” Saban said. “We melted down a little bit, which to me is you drop your guard psychologically.”
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