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September 15, 2012FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. | If it had all gone right for Arkansas - if Tyler Wilson had stayed healthy and the Razorbacks had played error-free football - it might have been interesting.
They didn't - and it wasn't.
Instead, Arkansas played without Wilson, committed five turnovers and took a monumental 52-0 loss at home. It was the first time Arkansas was shut out in Fayetteville since 1966 and the first time the Crimson Tide (3-0) recorded back-to-back shutouts since 1980.
"I think you have to understand that Tyler Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and their whole team is built around him," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. "It was a tough circumstance for them."
Most of Saban's attention, though, was on the efforts of his own No. 1-ranked team.
"We have really been fighting against allowing ourselves to accept average," he said. "I thought we started out a little bit average today, but I was pleased that we got better as the game went along. With the weather situation, playing our first conference game on the road ... our players responded."
Neither team played well early in the sloppy conditions, a steady rain that might have contributed to the first Alabama touchdown as Razorback punter Dylan Breeding could not handle a snap, giving UA field position at the Razorback 6-yard line. Eddie Lacy scored the first of his three touchdowns on the next play. Lacy added two more short touchdown runs, Amari Cooper went 20 yards with an AJ McCarron pass to account for a second-quarter Alabama touchdown. Two UA reserves, running back Kenyan Drake and quarterback Blake Sims, added fourth-quarter scores.
"I didn't think we improved much from Game 1 to Game 2," Saban said. "But we still had too many penalties (seven for 74 yards), and those will kill you in a close game."
McCarron exited the game in the third quarter but turned in another solid performance, completing 11 of 16 passes for 189 yards and the touchdown to Cooper. The junior quarterback suffered a hand injury when scrambling for a loose football, but Saban said the hand was only bruised and McCarron could have continued if needed.
Drake, a true freshman who played only in the fourth quarter, finished as Alabama's leading rusher, gaining 57 yards on six carries. Defensively, sophomores Vinnie Sunseri and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix had interceptions for the Crimson Tide.
Neither Arkansas quarterback fared well. Brandon Allen completed 10 of 18 passes for 60 yards and threw two interceptions. Brandon Mitchell completed just one of seven throws for 19 yards and rushed for 18 more.
The frustrations of the day, with Arkansas (1-2) gaining just 137 total yards, came out in the words of Wilson.
"It wasn't pretty to sit on the sidelines and watch as a player," Wilson said. "It sucks I can't do anything about it. Do I feel that we, at times, gave up out there? Absolutely."
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.