FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Mark Ingram ran for 157 yards and scored on a 1-yard run with 3:18 to play, completing top-ranked Alabama’s rally from a 13-point deficit in the second half for a 24-20 win against No. 10 Arkansas on Saturday.
Robert Lester set up the score with his second interception of the day against Ryan Mallett. He returned it to the Arkansas 11, and Nick Saban gave the ball to his Heisman Trophy winning running back on three straight plays to get the game-winning score.
The Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC) was able to run out the clock after Mallett threw his third interception, this time to Dre Kirkpatrick. Alabama faced fourth-and-inches in its own territory, but Greg McElroy picked it up with a sneak.
That sent Arkansas (3-1, 1-1) and its record home crowd of 76,808 away disappointed in the biggest game on campus in decades.
Mallett threw for 357 yards on 25 for 38 passing against Alabama’s inexperienced secondary, but the two interceptions he tossed in the fourth quarter will overshadow all those other gaudy numbers and pretty throws.
For a while, it looked like all those students who set up an expansive tent city outside the stadium and the fans crowded onto a hill overlooking Razorback Stadium would have something to celebrate. It had been since 1979 that two top 10 teams met in Fayetteville, and since 1996 that the No. 1 team paid a visit.
But with its usual formula of defensive playmaking and Ingram’s tough running, the Tide won its 18th straight game and started out SEC play with a victory for the 19th straight season.
With McElroy throwing multiple interceptions for only the second time in his career, Alabama leaned even more on Ingram in just his second game back from an injury. He lined up in the wildcat on the first two plays after Lester’s pick, and bulled his way to the doorstep.
Then he closed the deal after taking a handoff from McElroy. It was the second score of the day for Ingram, who went 54 yards for a TD in the first quarter. He put his finger up to his mouth in a bid to silence the sellout crowd at that point, but the Razorbacks weren’t done making noise just yet.
Mallett’s 1-yard score on a sneak late in the first half and freshman Ben Hocker’s 48-yard field goal in the third put Arkansas up 20-7 before the Tide started fighting back.
Trent Richardson scored on a 20-yard screen pass from McElroy in the final minute of the third quarter, and it took ‘Bama more than 8 minutes to drive for Jeremy Shelley’s 36-yard field goal with 6:01 to play. Still, there was plenty of time for Lester and the Tide’s young secondary to get some redemption after an awful start.
Mallett corralled a high snap on Arkansas’ first play and tossed a 31-yard pass to Jairus Wright, then followed with a 43-yard TD pass to Ronnie Wingo Jr., who had slipped out of the backfield uncovered. He shrugged off Lester’s tackle before making the final few steps into the end zone.
Mallett and the Hogs answered Ingram’s stiff-arming score to go ahead 10-7 on Hocker’s 31-yard field goal, then cashed in after McElroy threw picks on back-to-back drives.
The Razorbacks scored in the final 2 minutes for a third straight half, with Mallett completing all four of his passes and then sneaking right up the middle for a 1-yard score.
At the end, though, Mallett sat on the ground for a few moments to absorb Kirkpatrick’s pick on what was intended as a throw-away to the sidelines. He slowly walked back to the sideline and never got a chance to make up for the mistake.
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