TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama dialed up a long-distance whipping on a spotless Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium, scoring in a variety of ways from a variety of distances in pummeling Arkansas 38-14.
While the Crimson Tide had been impressive in their first three victories, they often had been more dull than dynamic, but that abruptly changed three minutes into game four when quarterback AJ McCarron threw a 37-yard touchdown pass after lining up as the holder on a field-goal attempt.
DeQuan Menzie had a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown and Marquis Maze an 83-yard punt return for a score, and there also was a 61-yard scoring connection from McCarron to Trent Richardson.
"They made the big plays today, and we didn't," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said after losing to Alabama by more than 20 points for the third time in four years. "They beat us in all the phases of the game."
Alabama doesn't have much time to celebrate, however, as the Crimson Tide must travel to Florida this week for a prime-time game on CBS.
A 21-yard Richardson run to near midfield ignited the No. 3 Tide on the game's first possession, but they stalled at the Arkansas 37 and had Cade Foster enter for a 54-yard field goal. McCarron took a knee as the holder but jumped up and got in shotgun formation, and then he connected with tight end Michael Williams as the crowd of 101,821 erupted.
So caught off guard were the Razorbacks that the only player trailing Williams, and trailing helplessly, was 6-foot-5, 307-pound defensive tackle DeQuinta Jones. Tide coach Nick Saban said the play was going to be implemented on their first field-goal attempt, whether in the first or fourth quarter and whether his team was 21 points ahead or behind.
"We've worked on that for about two years now," Williams said. "We just happened to bring it to the game plan this weekend. It worked out perfect."
Arkansas went three-and-out on its first possession but moved 63 yards in 12 plays on its second, tying the game on a 10-yard pass from Tyler Wilson to Dennis Johnson. By the time the No. 14 Razorbacks reached the end zone again, they had spotted the hosts 31 points on the bevy of big plays.
Menzie's interception gave the Crimson Tide a 17-7 lead, and Maze's long score of the day occurred at the 11:29 mark of the third quarter and made it 24-7. Maze got past Razorbacks punter Dylan Breeding at midfield, cut left into the middle of the field and then right once inside the 10-yard line.
"Once I beat the punter, some guy had an angle on me, so I just waited on my guys running down," Maze said. "Once they made the block, I cut back, and it was just me running. The punter had the best shot, but I was so focused on scoring that I couldn't tell you who touched me.
"I pride myself in never getting tackled by the punter."
Maze's punt return for a touchdown was the first for the Tide since Javier Arenas scored against UTC in 2009.
Alabama's defense made Arkansas one-dimensional from the start, holding Razorbacks tailback Ronnie Wingo to 1 yard on six carries in the first half. The Hogs wound up with 17 yards on 19 carries, or 0.9 per rush.
"Everybody talks about what a great passing team they are, and they are," Saban said, "but when they're able to run the ball effectively against you, you've really got issues, because now you're off-balance all the time. We played a lot of split-safety coverages today, daring them to run the ball, and I thought we did a good job up front of managing their runs.
"That was still the first goal of our defense -- to stop the run."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...