FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Alabama might not look like the Alabama of old, but it sure has no problem getting the same results.
The No. 1 Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) extended its nation-best winning streak to 18 games with a 49-30 win over No. 16 Arkansas on Saturday night, doing so with its new-look and ever-improving up-tempo offense that is averaging a robust 10.1 yards per play.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts once again did his part to lead the potent offense, accounting for four touchdowns and 253 yards passing as Alabama won its 10th straight over the Razorbacks (4-2, 0-2).
“It works well for us, it’s when we play the best,” coach Nick Saban said of the offense. “Our quarterback is well-suited for it, and I think we’ve done a good job as a staff developing the system where it’s maybe a little more efficient than when we started doing it a couple years ago.”
While the Crimson Tide’s offense gained 517 yards on only 51 plays, it was the defense that once again put on its own scoring display.
Linebacker Tim Williams and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick each scored defensive touchdowns for Alabama, the school’s eighth and ninth non-offensive touchdowns of the season. Fitzpatrick’s came on a 100-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter, and it was the sophomore’s career-best third interception of the night.
“When we score a non-offensive touchdown, it kind of helps the offense and it helps boost the morale of the team,” Fitzpatrick said. “We get really excited and have fun out there.”
The defensive scores were more than enough to end any hope for Arkansas of putting an end to its long losing streak to the Crimson Tide.
Austin Allen completed 25 of 48 passes for 400 yards and three touchdowns for the Razorbacks, but he also threw three interceptions while under duress from the Alabama rush. Arkansas finished with 473 yards of total offense, but it gained only 73 yards on the ground on 36 carries.
“I’m disappointed for the fans to not get them a win today,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “I thought there was enough things out there the No. 1 team in the country, but we spotted them two to three touchdowns. … It’s just too much to give up to the No. 1 team in the country.”
Damien Harris added 122 yards rushing on 13 carries for the Crimson Tide, which is now one game off Saban’s best winning streak at the school. Alabama won 19 straight games over the 2009-10 seasons.
Alabama: The three turnovers on offense weren’t vintage Crimson Tide, but the defensive effort — five forced turnovers — was. Alabama now has 55 non-offensive touchdowns in Saban’s nine-plus seasons, and it’s already nearly matched last season’s total of 10 non-offensive touchdowns this season. “We’re certainly not where we want to be, not in all facets of the game,” Saban said. “Sometimes we play great on offense, but we’ve just got to be more consistent when we play really good teams.”
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have a mess on their hands on the offensive line. There’s no other way to put it. Arkansas began the season with three first-year starters up front, and they once again struggled in both pass protection (six sacks, numerous other hits on Allen) and running the ball — averaging two yards per rush.
Not that anyone needed more reasons to keep Alabama at the top of their ballots , but the Crimson Tide aren’t going anywhere after yet another convincing victory. Arkansas, meanwhile, is at the mercy of the voters after its second loss of the season — hoping to remain ranked with No. 14 Mississippi coming to Fayetteville next week.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide continue their most difficult four-game stretch of the season by traveling to No. 9 Tennessee, which lost to No. 8 Texas A&M on Saturday. That’s followed by a date with the undefeated Aggies and then LSU on Nov. 5.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks remain at home to face the Rebels, whom they have defeated in each of the last two seasons.
This story has been corrected to show Alabama has scored nine non-offensive touchdowns this season, not 10.