TUSCALOOSA, Ala — No. 3 Alabama turned the showdown with the Southeastern Conference’s No. 1 offense into a showcase for the top defense. And the Crimson Tide’s special teams.
Trent Richardson, too, of course.
Richardson rushed for 120 yards and caught a 61-yard touchdown pass and the Tide defense pretty much unplugged No. 14 Arkansas’ normally high-powered passing game in a 38-14 win on Saturday.
The Tide (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) scored on special teams, defense and using the old-fashioned power run to emphatically win a game that the Razorbacks (3-1, 0-1) hoped would stamp them as legitimate contenders in the SEC.
Instead, the league’s top defense thoroughly overpowered quarterback Tyler Wilson and the No. 1 offense.
“Well, we set out to establish that we were going against the best offense in the SEC and a lot of people were labeling us as the best defense in the SEC,” Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “So we wanted to go out and show people what we were capable of with all cylinders turning.”
The result looked a lot like the Tide’s 2009 national championship defense. Alabama had 10 tackles for loss, two interceptions, six pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. The downside: Linebacker C.J. Mosley sustained an elbow injury, and Saban said he is questionable for next weekend’s game at No. 15 Florida.
Tide quarterback AJ McCarron also came up big in his first SEC start. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Marquis Maze scored on an 83-yard punt return and DeQuan Menzie returned an interception 25 yards for another score. McCarron, also the holder, hooked up with tight end Michael Williams for a 37-yard TD on a fake field goal.
There was also a clear winner in the showdown between Bobby Petrino’s passing game and Saban’s defense.
The Razorbacks came in averaging 47 points and 517 yards a game against questionable competition, but didn’t muster many threats this time.
They managed just 17 yards on 19 rushes and were outgained 397-226.
Wilson sat out most of the fourth quarter after completing 22 of 35 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns under near-constant pressure.
Alabama defenders seemed to sniff out every screen and swing pass to his dangerous receivers for little or no gain.