Things went down in Tuscaloosa about the way most expected. The Crimson Tide finished with a 41-9 win and are 7-0 while the Hogs are now at a lowly 2-4. Alabama did Alabama things and Arkansas did, well, what they’ve done for the past few weeks.
It started with the first play of scrimmage, Damien Harris broke free for a 75 yard touchdown run. A few plays later a snap was way over Blake Johnson’s head on fourth down and his, let’s say creative, escape didn’t go well. Before you blinked Bama was up 17-0 and the game was essentially over.
Not everything was a disaster, however. With Austin Allen’s shoulder injury keeping him out of the game, Cole Kelley got the start and he competed hard. In the face of pressure, I mean a lot of pressure, he finished with 23/42 for 200 yards and a TD. Arkansas’ only successful drive in the first half happened because of a 46 yard deep ball to Jordan Jones and a couple of completions to Brandon Martin. That drive ended with an incomplete pass in the endzone to Cheyenne O’Grady to end the half.
What makes Kelley’s performance more impressive is that he did it with zero run game. Once Alabama learned that Allen wouldn’t be playing, their gameplan was to completely sell out on stopping the run and force Kelley to beat them. Arkansas couldn’t get anything in the run game going, having just 8 yards on 11 carries in the first half. For the whole game they had 27 yards on 29 carries.
After getting shell shocked early, the defense had a reasonable second quarter as well. For three straight posessions the defense forced the Tide to punt. Paul Rhodes dialed up some more blitzes and they were mostly successful in forcing Jalen Hurts to make quick decisions. Both McTelvin Agim and De’Jon Harris had sacks on third downs during that time. As the game went on, however, Alabama’s class showed and they wore down the Arkansas defense. Alabama controlled the ball and wore down teams, as they tend to do. They slowly and inevitably extended the lead, and Arkansas, as a lot of teams are, were hopeless to stop it.
Arkansas was clearly outclassed in just about every phase of the game, especially when it came to running the ball. Something that should be a staple of Arkansas teams but isn’t this year. The biggest takeaway of the night was the positive play of Cole Kelley. Despite being overmatched in just about every way, Kelley went out there without fear and competed. While Arkansas’ season isn’t going to be a successful one, we at least got a positive glimpse of the future.