September 15, 2007

Two-minute turnaround

When Peyton Hillis pulled in a 7-yard touchdown pass to put Arkansas ahead 38-31 at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night, the scene looked exactly like so many games lost in the Mike Shula regime: With Alabama in good shape at the half, only to let it slip away late.

Not on this night.

Not on this field.

After watching the Razorbacks score 28 unanswered second-half points to take its first lead of the game, the Crimson Tide mustered 10 unanswered of its own for a 41-38 win.

"A lot of character in the game to get the ball back," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "Good two-minute drive at the end of the game ... Tremendous victory."

Had it been a boxing match, Alabama (3-0, 2-0 SEC) would have taken a standing eight-count as Arkansas running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones began breaking fourth-quarter tackles that they couldn't break in the first half. But the Crimson Tide answered the bell in the final round, and John Parker Wilson engineered a 73-yard drive in the two-minute offense for the knockout punch. His fourth touchdown pass of the night - to Matt Caddell with eight seconds remaining - extended Saban's Alabama honeymoon for at least another week.

Wilson finished with career highs in four offensive categories: completions (24), attempts (45), yards (327) and touchdowns (four).

"John Parker Wilson did an excellent job at the end driving Alabama down the field," said Arkansas linebacker Weston Dacus. "I thought we had this game tonight. You just have to give Alabama credit, they did an outstanding job, especially at the end of the game."

After allowing McFadden and Jones to move the chains throughout the second half, Alabama's defense delivered a must-stop on its final series, giving the ball back to the offense with 2:13 remaining to set up the game-winning touchdown drive.

"I asked the players on the sideline on defense ... 'Can you stop them'?" Saban said. "They said they could, so I believed them, had faith, trust and confidence in them, and they did that."

McFadden and Jones combined for 291 rushing yards, most of them in the second half.

Arkansas' defense allowed running back Terry Grant very little running room in the second half, and the game-winning drive all pass plays. Wilson was 7 for 11 on the drive, and got some help from two pass interference penalties.

Wide receiver DJ Hall broke Ozzie Newsome's school record for career receiving yards with his first catch, and finished with 172 yards on six catches.

Crimson Tide return specialist Javier Arenas broke a 58-yard punt return, his third big return in as many games. The play set up Alabama on the Arkansas goal line, and Wilson cashed in with a two-yard touchdown pass to Nick Walker.

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