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Initial Impressions: Alabama takes care of business against the Razorbacks

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Fried bacon for everyone!

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Has there ever been a game to go almost as totally as expected? A final score of 41-9 was nothing more than a flexing of the collective Alabama muscle, in pretty much all phases of the game.* Most of the Arkansas fanbase was already hoping to get coach Brett Beilema fired, and you have to wander if some of that attitude is permeating the players, too. The Razorbacks are just a bad team with no identity and nothing much there to inspire hope for the future.

*Except in the whole “catching of punts” phase

The opening play of the game saw Damien Harris take a zone hand-off to the left, cutting back to the right as the entire Arkansas defense over pursued, and then turned on the jets and raced 75 yards to the endzone. 3 plays later, the Razorbacks’ punter dropped the snap, leading to a quick and easy Alabama field goal.

Arkansas was held to another 3-and-out, and Bama went on an 8-play, 65 yard march with all the running backs getting in on the action before Jalen Hurts launched a laser 29 yards down field to Jerry Jeudy. Damien Harris then broke probably 25 tackles in one play to top it off and put the Tide up 17-0, and the game pretty much felt over at that point (just don’t tell Nick Saban I said that).

For their part, Arkansas never even attempted to establish a running game— a concept that might actually be better coaching than you’d think. Many teams in the past have wasted a lot of time breaking their teeth on the rocks trying to run on the Bama defense. Quarterback Austin Allen sat out the entire game with injury, and the massive mountain of man, Cole Kelley, played instead. He played bravely, shrugging off a lot of sacks, but not really all that well.

They had a nearly non-existent offense in the entire first half, even being unable to go forwards after Henry Ruggs fumbled a punt return to gift the Hogs with what should have been good enough field position for a free field goal. The Tide defense harassed him all game, to the tune of 5 sacks and 11 hurries on 42 passes.

Alabama scored once more to close out the half on a Jalen Hurts read-option, then sprinkled in 17 more points throughout a second half where both teams seemed intent to try and run clock. Arkansas, for their part, did put two 13-play drives together that ended in points, even though one was against the second team defense.

The passing game was on par with what we’ve seen most of the season. Jalen Hurts only attempted 19 passes, completing 63% of them for 155 yards (8.4 ypa) and a touchdown. He made some very nice throws today, including the one to Jeudy, a 16 yard dart to Devonta Smith, and a 20-yard touchdown bullet on the run to Ruggs. He also threw his first interception this season on an out route to Cam Sims than he short armed and the defensive back was able to jump the route.

The run game also looked like much of the same. Damien Harris ripped off chunk gain after chunk gain, Bo Scarbrough was used as the resident battering ram and swing pass guy, and Josh Jacobs finally started getting incorporated into the gameplan as a change-of-pace back. The Tide ended up with 308 yards and 4 touchdowns on the night. Even Najee Harris got himself a touchdown.

On defense, the Alabama front seven totally and thoroughly dominated the Arkansas offensive line. Rashaan Evans, in particular, was a demon in the back field, and continues to show an uncanny ability to convert his speed and acceleration into power when taking on a blocker. Da’Ron Payne and Raekwon Davis also were constantly in the backfield, along with a slew of other blitzers like Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, and Mack Wilson.

The secondary probably played well, but it was actually kind of hard to tell with how much pressure the front seven put on the QB. Levi Wallace was called for yet another questionable pass interference.

Speaking of, this marks two weeks in a row with some really ridiculous officiating moments against the Tide. There were back to back plays where an Alabama receiver was absolutely mugged well before the ball arrived, but with nothing called. An Arkansas receiver dropped a ball on a third down conversion, but it was called a catch and was obviously never reviewed. Plus a referee managed to tackle Damien Harris on a breakaway run than may well have been a long touchdown. I know it sounds ridiculous to be complaining about officiating from a fan of the team that just won by 32 points, but this whole subconscious attitude of “Oh, big bad Bama doesn’t need the help” that seems to be prevailing in officiating crews is getting annoying. At least the called a holding once on the Arkansas offensive line. I think it’s been two years since that’s been called on a Bama opponent.

Andy Pappanastos was perfect on field goals again, and continues to be a pleasant surprise, despite the scary left hook on most of his kicks.

So, all in all, it was a solid beating on a totally overmatched team. Alabama wasn’t perfect by any means, but neither were there any major issues to worry about going forward. And in a weekend where three top ten teams lost to unranked teams, a solid win against a conference opponent can’t be understated. This Alabama team is the real deal.

Isaiah Buggs and Damien Harris both went out in the second half with injuries. As of the time of me writing this, I haven’t heard any words yet on either one. Neither seemed to be too serious, but I guess we’ll see. Both would be HUGE losses to this team.

Nick Saban seemed to be in a generally pleased mood afterwards, so I say we all take 24 hours to bask in our team continuing to win amidst the chaos in the rest of the top ten, then move on to Tennessee Hate Week.

Roll Tide!