Crimson Tide takes victory over Arkansas
CUT TO THE CHASE – Mississippi State defensive end Jason Clark, left, chases down Louisiana State quarterback Matt Mauck in the first half Saturday.
The Associated Press
Sept. 29, 2002
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Shaud Williams and Brodie Croyle started in Alabama's backfield for the first time this week and they delivered a 30-12 victory over Arkansas on Saturday.
Williams compiled 216 total yards, while Croyle completed 12-of-24 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns.
Alabama (4-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) dominated the Arkansas offense, which had scored 83 points in its first two games. The Crimson Tide made two sacks, intercepted Matt Jones twice and held the Razorbacks (2-1, 0-1) to 299 yards.
Williams rushed for 119 yards on 11 carries, caught two passes for 88 yards and returned punts for 9 yards. Santonio Beard gave Alabama two 100-yard rushers with 134 yards on 21 carries.
Alabama didn't need half the first quarter to gain 160 yards and take a 14-0 lead on Arkansas, which entered the game with the nation's No. 1 rushing defense.
Croyle, starting his first game for injured senior Tyler Watts, needed only a handoff on the first play from scrimmage to take a 7-0 lead. On his second drive, he was 3-for-3 in seven plays that gave the Crimson Tide its second touchdown with 8:15 remaining in the first quarter.
Croyle hadn't left any sweat on the ball when Alabama quieted 73,551 fans, the largest crowd to witness a sporting event in Arkansas. After lining up for the first play following the kickoff, Williams took his handoff six yards deep, hesitated, then sprinted through a large hole for an 80-yard touchdown.
No one touched him until free safety Kenny Hamlin, who had been crowding the line, grabbed his jersey at the goal line.
Hamlin found himself out of position on Alabama's next scoring pass as well. Croyle drew Hamlin into the middle of the field with a look, then threw to uncovered split end Sam Collins on the right sideline.
Collins walked into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead as Hamlin tripped and fell trying to get back to Collins.
On that drive, Croyle didn't look like a quarterback starting his first game. He completed all three passes for 65 yards after starting with a 2-yard scramble that ended with Arkansas cornerback Ahmad Carroll hitting him with a helmet-to-helmet tackle.
Down 17-0 after a 28-yard field goal by Brian Bostick, Arkansas fans started booing coach Houston Nutt's play-calling early in the second quarter. But the crowd got its roar back after Jones directed a seven-play scoring drive capped by his 7-yard scramble to pull with 17-7 at the half.
The teams traded field goals to start the second half. Arkansas closed to 17-10 with a 33-yard effort by Brennan O'Donohoe, which was set up by a 46-yard kickoff return by DeCori Birmingham.
Williams made sure the Tide kept pace when he turned a 5-yard sideline route into a 75-yard play, making Arkansas' Tony Bua miss on the Alabama sideline. The Tide took a 20-10 lead on Bostick's 36-yard kick.
Arkansas had the ball at the Alabama 20 early in the fourth quarter after a short kick by backup punter Michael Ziifle. But on the first play, middle linebacker Derrick Pope picked off Jones and returned it 61 yards to set up another field goal by Bostick.
Alabama's defense continued its second-half domination with a sack by Todd Bates during another three-and-out series by Arkansas.
Croyle put the game away with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Zach Fletcher for a 30-10 lead with 9:41 left in the game.
Ziifel stepped out of the end zone in the final minute to give Arkansas a safety.