Hogs' 25 Memorable Games in SEC:

Hogs left Alabama seeing red with worst loss in 41 years

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Arkansas running back Madre Hill (34) cuts back against the Alabama defense during the third quarter Saturday, Sept. 26, 1998, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas beat No. 22 Alabama 42-6. (AP Photo/Beau Rogers)
Arkansas running back Madre Hill (34) cuts back against the Alabama defense during the third quarter Saturday, Sept. 26, 1998, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas beat No. 22 Alabama 42-6. (AP Photo/Beau Rogers)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Two words can best describe the Arkansas Razorbacks' conference debut for Coach Houston Nutt in 1998: Code Red.

No. 22 Alabama was in town for the ESPN2 broadcast at Razorback Stadium between a pair of 2-0 teams. The Crimson Tide left smarting with a 42-6 loss inflicted by a University of Arkansas, Fayetteville team that would go on to win its first eight games in Nutt's first season. It was the first time the Razorbacks had opened a season with that many consecutive victories since the 1988 team started 10-0.

Alabama's 36-point loss was its worst margin of defeat since a 40-0 shutout by Auburn in 1957, the game before a fellow from Moro Bottom, Ark., named Paul "Bear" Bryant took the Tide's coaching reins. It was Alabama's worst road loss since falling 78-0 at Vanderbilt in 1906.

The game was ranked by a panel at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette at No. 16 among the 25 most memorable games for Arkansas during 25 years in the SEC.

"We made them quit," Nutt said of the 1998 game. "We really did. We were very physical and tough. The guys just played so hard. It was a tremendous team win."

Nutt recalled seeing guard Brandon Burlsworth, who would go on to become an All-American that year, reviewing his footwork in the dark Wednesday night of game week. He brought it up to the rest of the Razorbacks the next night.

"He wanted to do his job for his teammates," Nutt said he told the team. "I think if each and every one of us will play for one another -- I know they're big, bad Alabama -- but if you do that, we're going to win."

"Code Red" was an attitude as much as anything, a state of mind for the defensive players created by co-coordinator Keith Burns, who wanted to make playing defense fun again after a poor 1997 season. The Razorbacks employed some funky blitz packages under Burns and co-coordinator Bobby Allen, but Code Red was more than the X's and O's: It was a rallying cry.

The evening before the game, the Razorbacks' defensive players met the Alabama bus at Razorback Stadium -- with the Crimson Tide still on it -- and began shaking it. Though the incident led to harsh words between the teams, it did not escalate beyond that.

The Razorbacks applied a more vigorous shaking the next night before a crowd of 51,763, the seventh largest at Razorback Stadium at that point.

Alabama actually led 3-0 after one quarter and was within 14-6 at halftime. But with running back Madre Hill piling up 120 yards and a touchdown and Chrys Chukwuma adding another 69 yards and a touchdown, the Razorbacks were on their way to outgaining their visitors 445-152 in total offense.

"I can't recall being beat so bad on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball," second-year Alabama Coach Mike DuBose said.

Clint Stoerner threw a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Snowden, covering 21 and 36 yards, and one of 24 yards to tight end Joe Dean Davenport.

After Ryan Pflugner's 55-yard field goal pulled Alabama within 7-6 with 2:24 left in the first half, Arkansas outscored the Tide 35-0.

The Razorbacks passed for 239 yards and rushed for 206 and held a 26-7 advantage in first downs.

"That team we played tonight was for real, and our offensive line took it to them," Stoerner said that night.

Alabama defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who would hold the same position for a few weeks at Arkansas 10 years later, stood in the rain during postgame interviews to allow the media to have their cameras and recording devices under a tent in the south end zone.

Johnson said missed tackles were a large part of the Tide's failures.

"That's an indication that we weren't prepared for the speed," Johnson said at the time. "We've not faced the kind of speed we faced tonight in our first two games."

Arkansas more than doubled its previous scoring high against Alabama, which had come in a 20-19 victory in Tuscaloosa, Ala., three years before during the Razorbacks' run to the SEC West title.

Nutt's victory in his debut against Alabama was the Hogs' third in four games against the traditional power. Arkansas would go 5-5 against the Tide during Nutt's tenure, with a 41-38 loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2007 the first of the Razorbacks' current 10-game losing streak in the series.

The game plan for Code Red was to hit Shaun Alexander hard and gang tackle the talented tailback, and make quarterback John David Phillips beat them through the air.

Phillips was not up to the task, completing 9 of 21 passes for 48 yards.

"He's a fifth-year senior, but this is just his third start, so it was a lot of pressure on him to beat us without Alexander," Arkansas defensive tackle Melvin Bradley said that day. "We figured if we could shut down Alexander, we would pretty much take them out of their game."

The Razorbacks did just that. Alexander, who would be a first-round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks after the 1999 season, had to work hard for his 48 yards, averaging 2.3 yards on his 21 carries. He had two runs for no gain and six carries for lost yardage.

"I remember our defense hit Alexander so much and so hard that he got to where he started bracing for it, like, 'I've got to protect myself,' " Arkansas receiver Anthony Lucas said recently.

"Physically, they beat us," Alabama cornerback Fernando Bryant said that night. "On first down, they were getting 5 yards. On our first downs, we were losing 5 yards."

The Razorbacks posted 10 tackles for loss.

Arkansas replaced the Crimson Tide at No. 22 in The Associated Press Top 25 rankings the next week en route to reaching No. 9 late in the season.

Box Score

Sept. 26, 1998

Razorback Stadium

Fayetteville

Alabama;3 3 0 0 — 6

Arkansas;0 14 7 21 — 42

FIRST QUARTER

ALA—FG Pflugner 42, 1:37

SECOND QUARTER

ARK—Snowden 21 pass from Stoerner (Latourette kick), 13:37

ALA—FG Pflugner 55, 2:24

ARK—Davenport 24 pass from Stoerner (Latourette kick), :27

THIRD QUARTER

ARK—Snowden 36 pass from Stoerner (Latourette kick), 5:44

FOURTH QUARTER

ARK—Chukwuma 1 run (Latourette kick), 14:07

ARK—Hill 8 run (Latourette kick), 11:03

ARK—Stinson 2 run (Latourette kick), 8:43

Attendance—51,763

ALA;ARK

First downs;7;26

Rushes-yards;34-104;43-206

Passing;48;239

Comp-Att-Int;9-21-1;13-30-0

Returns yards;70;14

Fumbles-lost;2-1;3-1

Penalties-yards;13-104;3-22

Time of possession;31:09;28:51

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Alabama, Alexander 21-48, Phillips 8-22, Jackson 1-21, Richard 2-6, McClintock 1-6, Madden 1-1. Arkansas, Hill 20-120, Chukwuma 14-69, Branch 4-10, Stoerner 2-3, Stinson 2-3, Kennedy 1-1.

PASSING—Alabama, Phillips 9-21-1 48. Arkansas, Stoerner 13-29-0 239, McBride 0-1-0 0.

RECEIVING—Alabama, Alexander 3-9, Vaughn 2-13, Jackson 2-13, McAddley 1-8, Bowens 1-5. Arkansas, Snowden 3-69, Lucas 3-58, Davenport 3-55, Smith 2-54, Williams 2-3.

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