FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. – Mark Ingram ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-win-ner with 3:18 left, as top-ranked Alabama rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit to stun 10th-ranked Arkansas, 24-20, at Razorback Stadium.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner Ingram teamed up with Trent Richardson, who gained 85 yards on eight carries, to help defending champion Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) remain unbeaten in its last 28 regular season games after scoring 17 unanswered points. Greg McElroy also stayed undefeated in his collegiate career after throwing for 194 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-26 passing. McElroy, who is 18-0 as a starter, was also picked off twice.
Richardson also added a receiving touchdown, while Julio Jones had five catches for 55 yards. The Crimson Tide, who have beaten the Razorbacks four straight times, won their eighth straight game against AP Top 25 opponents.
Ryan Mallett threw for 357 yards and a touchdown on 25-of-38 passing, but was intercepted three times for Arkansas (3-1, 1-1), which fell to 4-12 all-time against the top-ranked team in the nation. Jarius Wright was Mallett’s main target, catching six passes for 131 yards, while Ronnie Wingo hauled in a touchdown pass.
After Alabama trimmed its deficit to three with six minutes left, the Razorbacks looked to go on a game-clinching drive. However, a critical error gave the Crimson Tide new life. On third-and-11 from the Arkansas 19, Mallett threw his second interception, as Robert Lester came up with the critical pick – his second of the game – and returned it 33 yards to the 12-yard line. The Crimson Tide put it in the hands of Ingram three straight plays, with the last play getting into the end zone from one yard out for a 24-20 Alabama advantage with 3:18 to play.
Mallett, who engineered a game-winning drive one week earlier to beat Georgia in Athens, tried to duplicate the feat. He looked good early, completing passes of 10 and 19 yards to Wright and Joe Adams, respectively. He took the Razorbacks near midfield before Dre Kirkpatrick made a sideline interception to give the Crimson Tide possession with under two minutes.
Alabama nearly made a colossal error in the final moments. Trying to run the clock out, the Tide faced 4th-and-inches from their own 44 with just under a minute to play. Instead of punting it away – Arkansas had zero timeouts remaining – they elected to go for it, and McElroy got just enough push on a quarterback sneak to gain the first down, sealing the outcome.
Arkansas started the game with the ball and got off to the perfect start. On the first play from scrimmage, Mallett found Wright on the right sideline, and he scampered through space 31 yards to the Alabama 43. On the following snap, Mallett hit a wide-open Wingo at about the 20 near the left sideline, and Wingo made one defender miss to get into the end zone for a 7-0 lead 50 seconds into the game.
Alabama punted on its first possession, but used a big play on its second touch to even the score. On first down from the Crimson Tide 46, Ingram broke through the right side of the defense and snuck inside the right pylon, avoiding several would-be tacklers en route to the 54-yard score. Arkansas, though, answered right away with Zach Hocker’s 31-yard field goal to grab a 10-7 lead in the final mo-ments of the opening quarter.
Each team came up with a big defensive play in the second quarter. Consecutive completions of 43 yards and 31 yards from Mallett to Wright and Greg Childs, respectively, put Arkansas on the Alabama six-yard line. On 3rd- and-goal, Lester came up with an interception in the back of the end zone to maintain the Tide’s three-point deficit.
McElroy followed by leading Alabama on a drive that got inside the Razorbacks’ 10-yard line, but Andru Stewart came up with a pick in the end zone that prevented the visitors from taking the lead. On the Crimson Tide’s following drive, McElroy thought he had a wide-open receiver down the right sideline, but Arkansas’ Rudell Crim came in at the last second to intercept the pass.
With just under two minutes left, Mallett engineered a drive, which ended with the quarterback’s one-yard plunge into the end zone for a 17-7 halftime lead.
Alabama’s offense sputtered coming out of halftime, gaining one first down before being forced to punt. Arkansas, on the other hand, was effective right away, getting inside the red zone before settling for Hocker’s 48-yard field goal with five minutes left the third quarter.
The top team in the nation was finally able to respond with a quick 74-yard drive that took less than five minutes. McElroy ended it with a short pass to Richardson, who took it in from the Arkansas 20-yard line for a 20-14 contest with under a minute until the fourth. The Crimson Tide took the ball downfield again on their next drive, but had to settle for a 36-yard field goal from Jeremy Shelley with 6:01 to play, cutting the deficit to three.