Annual Alabama tooth-pulling in the books

By: Wally Hall
Published: Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, left, shakes hands with Alabama coach Nick Saban prior to a game Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, left, shakes hands with Alabama coach Nick Saban prior to a game Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

In the glorious world of sports reporting it was 2:30 a.m. Sunday when your trusty Arkansas Democrat-Gazette team pulled into the Marriott Courtyard in Tupelo, Miss.

The day had started at noon, and a two-hour drive took almost four hours because traffic on the Alabama campus was almost like rush hour in New York City.

It seemed every person who had an Alabama driver’s license — some must have gotten them off the internet — had come to town. No doubt most had tickets, just not all.

Unintentionally, your reporting team of Bob Holt, Tom Murphy, photographer Ben Krain and yours truly took a wrong turn in the crowd and suddenly we were on the hallowed sidewalk where the famed boys of fall, the Alabama Crimson Tide, would walk to the stadium.

On both sides, jammed shoulder to shoulder, were thousands upon thousands of adoring fans — of the Tide, not the media — hoping to get a glimpse of Nick Saban or one his players. Every few feet, engraved in the concrete, were the date and name of every player and every coach from every national championship, real or imagined.

It was surreal and scary to walk down victory alley.

Some of the fans were drunk and all were high on the hopes of playing a small but insignificant role in yet another Alabama victory, which seems to happen on every Saturday that ends in a y.

No one yelled at us. We were just clutter on the stage that stars Saban and his supporting cast, at least until we got to the end and had to get through the crowd.

Then our man Bob, an innocent sort, said: “Excuse us, we’re from Arkansas and didn’t know how to get to the press box.”

No one actually cursed or threatened us, but it was very clear very quickly that we were unwanted guests.

When the game started, it quickly became obvious the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Razorbacks were even less welcome for a play-date in the grassy bowl where opponents come to lose.

It took 15 seconds for Arkansas to trail the Tide, the No. 1 team — almost always since Saban arrived — in America.

Halfway through the first quarter it was 17-0, and it was 24-0 at the half.

It seemed like the Tide scored every time Saban told them it was OK.

On a bright side, Arkansas redshirt freshman quarterback Cole Kelley played well. He took a beating but got up swinging every time.

Now comes Auburn, which will either be ticked off after blowing a 20-0 lead and losing to LSU or down and questioning its ability to close a game.

We drove the back roads of Alabama and Mississippi on the way back from Tuscaloosa, and the game was discussed at a pace not possible during the game because of continuous note-taking.

Arkansas punted six times in the first half, and it would have been seven if not for a mishandled snap.

Alabama punted three times but scored on four possessions.

In the second half, the Hogs punted twice, but they were limited to five possessions, scoring on two of those.

Alabama, meanwhile, reeled off another 17 points and won 41-9, and it wasn’t really that close.

Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, who is afforded an AD’s suite, apparently saw it all from the Razorbacks locker room. Maybe he wanted firsthand knowledge of what was going on with the Hogs, or perhaps he wanted to continue to not comment on the future of the program.

Whatever, the SEC ritual of losing to Alabama is finished for another year.

Read Wally Hall’s



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