By John Zenor/The Associated Press
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Trent Richardson rushed for 120 yards and caught a 61-yard touchdown pass and No. 3 Alabama overwhelmed No. 14 Arkansas in a 38-14 win on Saturday.
The Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) scored on special teams, defense and using the old-fashioned power run to emphatically win the SEC West showdown that the Razorbacks (3-1, 0-1) hoped would stamp them as legitimate contenders.
Instead, the league’s top defense thoroughly overpowered Tyler Wilson and the No. 1 offense.
Tide quarterback AJ McCarron also came up big in his first SEC start. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Marquis Maze scored on an 83-yard punt return and DeQuan Menzie returned an interception 25 yards for another score. McCarron, also the holder, hooked up with tight end Michael Williams for a 37-yard touchdown on a fake field goal.
What started as a showdown between Bobby Petrino’s passing game and Nick Saban’s defense turned into a showcase for the latter.
The Razorbacks came in averaging 47 points and 517 yards a game against questionable competition, but didn’t muster many threats this time.
They managed just 17 yards on 19 rushes and were outgained 397-226.
Wilson sat out most of the fourth quarter after completing 22 of 35 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns under near-constant pressure. He also had an interception returned for a TD, and Alabama defenders seemed to sniff out every screen and swing pass to his dangerous receivers for little or no gain.
Ronnie Wingo, who rushed for 109 yards against Troy, gained 14 yards on nine carries.
Richardson had his third straight 100-yard game and also caught three passes for 85 yards. Backfield mate Eddie Lacy ran for 61 yards and punctuated the win with a 4-yard touchdown late in the third for the final points. It was the first rushing score allowed by Arkansas this season.
The Tide found plenty of flashier paths to the end zone, though. The result was a 17-7 halftime lead that was never threatened by the normally high-powered Razorbacks.
First, Alabama lined up for a 54-yard field goal on fourth-and-4 before McCarron shifted back and took the snap. He rolled left and lofted the ball to a wide-open Williams on the Tide’s opening drive. It set the tone nicely for a game when just about everything seemed to go right for Alabama even though Arkansas tied it by the end of the first quarter.
The Arkansas defense salvaged some momentum in the second at the end of a 15-play drive, stuffing three straight runs from the goal line to force a field goal. It proved a small and temporary victory.
Three plays later, Wilson’s errant pass hit Menzie on his right forearm and bounced right back into the cornerback’s arms for a 25-yard interception return to push the lead to double digits.
Maze squirted out of a couple of tackles on a punt return en route to an 83-yard punt return in the third.
McCarron then barely cleared a defensive lineman on a swing pass to Richardson, who sprinted to the end zone to make it 31-7.
Despite heavy pressure, Wilson responded quickly with a 39-yarder down the left sideline to Wingo and a 19-yarder to Cobi Hamilton in the back of the end zone. He was pounded an instant after making both throws.