Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Postgame Thoughts: Alabama 65, Arkansas 31
Arkansas running back Rakeem Boyd carries the ball against Alabama Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, during the second quarter at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the game.
Efficient, effective and downright dominant, Alabama's offense again proved to be the most consistent thing in college football through Week 6 in a 65-31 blowout win over Arkansas on Saturday.
Crimson Tide starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa effortlessly threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns against an obviously outmanned Arkansas defense. Perhaps the most telling stat of Tagovailoa's performance was he attempted only 13 passes. He completed 10 of his first 11 passes, and his scoring throws covered 76, 47, 42 and 60 yards. He still has not played in the fourth quarter of any game this season.
Alabama's first score of the game came on a simple dump down to tight end Irv Smith Jr., yet Arkansas' defense was unable to make a play and Smith Jr. cruised down the Crimson Tide sideline for an easy touchdown. You have to credit Alabama's receivers, though, for their downfield blocks outside the numbers to spring the score.
Following a Ty Storey fumble – the first of two on the day for the Razorbacks starter – on Arkansas' opening possession of the game, which moved into Alabama territory, Tagovailoa hit Smith Jr. for another chunk play. Smith Jr. fumbled after making a number of Arkansas defensive backs miss, and as so often happens, an Alabama skill player was in the right place at the right time. Henry Ruggs III recovered the fumble at the 12 and found the end zone and, just like that, Alabama was in firm control.
By game's end, coach Nick Saban's offense dropped 639 yards of offense on Arkansas – fourth-most allowed by any Razorbacks team. Damien Harris, perhaps considered the team's No. 2 back, somewhat quietly rushed for 111 yards and two scores. Receivers Jerry Jeudy and Smith Jr. finished with 100-plus yards through the air, too. Crimson Tide pass catchers averaged 28.1 yards per reception on the day.
Arkansas' offense was somewhat of a bright spot despite the lopsided loss, one that dropped Chad Morris' bunch to 1-5 on the season and 0-3 in Southeastern Conference play. Storey, until throwing a pick-6 early in the fourth quarter to Alabama's Shyheim Carter, performed admirably throwing the ball against the vaunted Tide defense. He competed 25 of 39 passes for a season-high 230 yards and a pair of touchdown passes.
The positive steps in the right direction for the Arkansas offense over the last couple of weeks can be largely credited to the identification of the unit's playmakers. Tight end Cheyenne O'Grady, who had a breakout effort in last weekend's 24-17 loss to Texas A&M, hauled in a career-high seven passes for 48 yards and two touchdowns - one apiece from Storey and Cole Kelley, who entered the game in a handful of short-yardage situations.
After not being targeted through four weeks of the season, O'Grady has seen the ball thrown his way 13 times the last two weeks, and rightfully so. He is arguably the Razorbacks' top NFL talent on the offensive side of the ball when all his right.
Running back Rakeem Boyd also had a solid showing in his second consecutive game as Arkansas' feature back with starter Devwah Whaley out dealing with a concussion sustained in the loss at Auburn. O'Grady and Boyd, who became the first Razorbacks running back to rush for better than 100 yards against Alabama since Darren McFadden in 2007, are the offense's top weapons and it appears coaches are well aware of this. In all, the two touched the ball 27 times in 71 plays.
But if this offense wants to continue to improve, it cannot afford costly turnovers, especially in the red zone like Storey had in the first half with a chance to cut the Alabama lead to just seven points despite a disastrous start. Instead, his fumble gave way to Alabama's explosive offense, and after a replay review did not go Arkansas' way, Jeudy jetted into the end zone untouched on a simple slant route.
The Razorbacks' schedule looks much more manageable over the next three weeks. Arkansas will face Ole Miss in Little Rock for a night game next weekend before returning to Fayetteville for winnable games against Tulsa and Vanderbilt, which entered Saturday with a combined record of 4-6.
The challenge for Arkansas' staff this week is to ensure belief among the players is still there as the back half of the schedule approaches.
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