Arkansas falls short in game, fourth-down gamble in 27-14 loss at No. 8 Alabama

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TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Bret Bielema felt Arkansas badly needed something to get the offense going.

So the Razorbacks coach called a fake punt in his own territory late in the third quarter Saturday night in a 27-14 loss to No. 8 Alabama. It didn't work.

Toby Baker was stopped 3 yards shy of a first down, and the Crimson Tide scored again and pulled away in a game that Arkansas (2-4, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) led much of the way.

"We thought we had an opportunity to run a sweep to our right," Bielema said. "Really didn't want to go to it unless we just couldn't get anything going. And we just continued to stall out offensively. I could feel that momentum starting to slide the other way."

Calvin Ridley had just caught an 81-yard touchdown pass from Jake Coker late in the third quarter to give Alabama (5-1, 2-1) a 10-7 lead.

"The big play from Jake to Calvin was a momentum changer in the game," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "From that time on we dominated pretty well until they hit the scramble pass at the end."

The Tide scored 24 points over the final 17 minutes against a defense that had allowed only 15 fourth-quarter points through five games. The Razorbacks couldn't do more than flirt with the upset despite two interceptions and a pair of missed Alabama field goals.

The Tide held Alex Collins to 26 rushing yards and added three sacks and an interception.

"I thought offensively we didn't do enough to win," Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said. "The defense played really well. They were keeping us in the whole time."

Coker was twice intercepted on deep balls in the first half but finished 24 of 33 for 262 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Derrick Henry ran for 95 yards on 27 carries and set an Alabama record late with a touchdown in his 11th consecutive game.

"Offensively, the story of the day was we just couldn't do anything with any consistency," Bielema said. "Couldn't run it, couldn't throw it, couldn't convert the third downs the way we needed to and that ended up forcing the hand on a couple of other issues."

Alabama's defense had a little swagger during and after the game.

"We are the best defense in the country, hands down," said safety Eddie Jackson.

Alabama has won nine straight games against the Razorbacks and six in a row at home.

This one didn't come without nearly three quarters' worth of anxious moments.

Alabama's offense — and Bryant-Denny Stadium — finally came to life with one bomb dialed in by Lane Kiffin. That started a 17-point flurry over a 6-minute, 32-second span for an offense that had been repeatedly turned away shy of the end zone.

Coker hit a wide-open Ridley, yards behind the nearest defender, with 1:39 left in the third quarter. The freshman receiver had caught two long passes a week ago against Georgia in a breakout performance and topped that. He had 140 yards on nine catches.

Then came Bielema's gamble.

"A big play in the game was stopping their little fake punt thing, which we knew they had," Saban said. "We told them to watch out for it."

Alabama got a third-down defensive holding call and a 15-yard scramble from Coker. Then Coker hit Richard Mullaney for a 3-yard touchdown on a play-action pass for a 17-7 lead.

Jackson picked off Allen and returned it 20 yards to set up Henry's record-setting score. Allen added a long touchdown pass to Dominique Reed to improve his numbers to 176 yards on 15 of 32 passing.

The Razorbacks gained just 44 yards on the ground after racking up 275 in a win over Tennessee behind Collins' third straight effort of 150-plus yards.

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