September 23, 2006

Alabama falls in overtime to Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Mitch Mustain threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ben Cleveland in the second overtime - and Jeremy Davis made the extra point - to give Arkansas a 24-23 victory over Alabama on Saturday.

The Crimson Tide had taken a 23-17 lead on a 1-yard pass from John Parker Wilson to Nick Walker, but Leigh Tiffin finished a horrendous afternoon of kicking by missing the extra point. Tiffin had already missed a 33-yard field goal attempt in the first half, a 30-yarder late in the fourth quarter and a 37-yarder that would have won it in the first overtime.

Arkansas faced third down at the 11 on its final possession, but Alabama lost track of Cleveland, and he came down with Mustain's pass in the end zone to tie it. The celebration was a bit subdued at first - Davis had missed an extra point himself in the third quarter - but when his final kick sailed through, the Razorbacks charged onto the field.

Coach Houston Nutt, under pressure around Arkansas after two straight losing seasons, led the crowd in loud rendition of the school's fight song. The Razorbacks (3-1) are 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since 1998, Nutt's first season as their coach.

Arkansas added to its legacy of overtime thrillers. The Razorbacks are now 6-1 in overtime, although this was their first home game that required an extra session.

Arkansas won the two longest games in NCAA history - in seven overtimes over Mississippi in 2003 and Kentucky in 2001. The Razorbacks also lost a six-overtime game to Tennessee in 2002.

Alabama (3-1, 1-1 SEC) is 2-6 in overtime games and hasn't won one since 1999. The Crimson Tide lost to Arkansas in double overtime in 2003.

Mustain, the Razorbacks' prized freshman, threw three interceptions - including one in the first overtime that gave Alabama a great opportunity to win. But Tiffin, whose fourth-quarter kick was the margin in the Crimson Tide's 13-10 win over Vanderbilt two weekends ago, couldn't capitalize. All of Tiffin's misses were wide right.

Tiffin has been handling placekicking duties because of an injury to Jamie Christensen, who made three winning kicks late in the fourth quarter last year.

Arkansas needed a missed kick to win last week, too. The Razorbacks edged Vanderbilt 21-19 when Bryant Hahnfeldt's 48-yard attempt late in the fourth quarter fell short.

Mustain went just 7-of-22 for 97 yards, but when it mattered most, he found Cleveland - a teammate of his last year at Springdale High School in Arkansas.

Wilson, a sophomore, was nearly flawless in his first road start. He went 16-of-20 for 243 yards and three touchdowns, including a 78-yard scoring pass to DJ Hall in the second quarter that made it 7-3. Alabama led 10-3 at halftime, but Arkansas scored on Darren McFadden's 3-yard run early in the third quarter.

Davis missed the extra point, leaving the score at 10-9, but Randy Kelly returned Wilson's fumble 39 yards for a touchdown later in the period, and Mustain threw to McFadden for a 2-point conversion to make it 17-10.

That was Arkansas' first takeaway of the season. The Razorbacks were the last team in Division I-A to force a turnover.

Wilson threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Keith Brown with 13:36 remaining to tie it at 17.

McFadden rushed for 112 yards.

Alabama entered as the SEC's top team in time of possession, and Arkansas was ranked last. The Crimson Tide controlled the ball for 39:32 in regulation against the Razorbacks.

Arkansas has next weekend off before traveling to play No. 2 Auburn. Alabama is at No. 5 Florida next weekend.




 

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