The defending national champion, the Alabama Crimson Tide, overcame a rather sluggish first half, finding their rhythm in the second half, on their way to a 24-20 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Winning on the road against a top-ten ranked team definitely set the tone for this tough Alabama Crimson Tide football team. Not only did they defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks as a ranked team, the Tide defeated them as their first SEC challenger.
Junior quarterback, and Heisman hopeful, Ryan Mallett posed the first real threat to Alabama’s inexperienced secondary. The junior threw for 357 passing yards, completing 25 of his 38 passes.
Though the Heisman prospect did not play up to the hype, Alabama’s young defensive players had to make adjustments and generate a momentum shift in the second half. Sophomores Robert Lester and Dre Kirkpatrick collectively picked Mallet three times. In the second half, the Tide’s defense forced punts from the Razorbacks and ended all hopes of first downs.
The offense picked up its slack in the second half as well and began to play like defending champions.
While on the road Saturday, Alabama quarterback, Greg McElroy, had a higher completion percentage and fewer interceptions than Mallett. Though McElroy gets a lot of help from his team, he is still one of the most underrated quarterbacks in all of college football and Saturday proved it.
McElroy has to continuously prove himself. In the SEC championship game last year, McElroy out-Tebowed Tim Tebow, earning the game’s MVP award. Again, in the national championship game, McElroy proved to be better than previous Heisman candidate, Colt McCoy. McCoy exited the game after taking a hit from the Alabama’s Marcell Dareus on the opening drive of the game.
Hopefully, Saturday will prove that McElroy is not just an average quarterback, but a true athlete who can overcome high-pressure situations and come out victorious.
Alongside McElroy, the true Heisman winner of 2009 made an appearance on Saturday.
Mark Ingram rushed for 157 yards for two touchdowns. Ingram scored the final touchdown to win the game with only 3:18 left in the fourth quarter. He is only projected to run 924 yards of the 1,658 rushing yards he tallied last season. If Ingram plays a consistent run game, then he very well could come close to last year’s yardage despite missing two games. Hopefully, after this week, real Heisman candidates will be talked about instead of a sub-par Mallett.
The stage was set this past Saturday as the whole nation watched to see how No. 1 Alabama would fare against another ranked contender. Though the Tide defeated the Razorbacks, the win did not come easily, and fans noticed. The Tide will have to learn from their errors in the first half and correct them before they play teams like Auburn or LSU.
Alabama is considered to have the toughest season schedule in all of college football. If the Tide allows what happened Saturday to happen again, they may not come out so lucky. The Tide plays four ranked opponents, all undefeated except one loss for South Carolina against Auburn.
Even though the Alabama-Arkansas game was not one to be proud of, it was still a testament to the true character of this Tide football team. The Tide is one to do whatever needs to be done to win. The Tide will make adjustments, step up their game, and play like defending national champions.
Next weekend marks Alabama’s second straight ranked, conference battle. The Tide will face off against 9th ranked Florida at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Though Florida is ranked higher than the Razorbacks, the hype for this game is not near as strong. Florida is still undefeated; however, the Gators have struggled against weak teams.
The Tide is expected to win the duel against the SEC powerhouse and continue on to a tough match against the South Carolina Gamecocks.