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September 15, 2012FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. | Without Jesse Williams and Dee Milliner, the University of Alabama shut out a plucky Western Kentucky team.
With both starters back in the lineup Saturday, the Crimson Tide shut down a previously explosive Arkansas offense and kept the Razorbacks from breaching the scoreboard in a 52-0 beatdown. Alabama, which allowed two touchdowns to Michigan in its season opener, hasn't allowed another score in nine straight quarters of play.
Alabama also added to its collection of turnovers, intercepting two passes and recovering three fumbles.
Milliner, UA's only returning starter at cornerback, had a breakout game against Michigan with four pass breakups and an interception. He didn't quite have the same dominating performance against Arkansas, but he did break up a trick-play pass that seemed destined for a long gain. The Crimson Tide held Arkansas to just 79 passing yards on 25 attempts and produced four sacks.
"I feel that we're the greatest defense in the SEC, that if we come out and compete the game plan like we're supposed to we'll be fine," he said.
Williams, who like Milliner missed the Western Kentucky game with an injury, was back to anchor UA's defensive front. He made three tackles and helped hold the Razorbacks to just 58 rushing yards.
All told, Arkansas averaged just 2.2 yards per play.
"I felt really good out there," Williams said. "Defense is playing real well, everyone's come together and, hopefully, we'll get this long SEC streak sort of going."
Arkansas was without quarterback Tyler Wilson, who sustained a concussion a week earlier against Louisiana-Monroe. The Razorbacks were unable to catch Alabama off guard with the plan of alternating Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell at quarterback.
"We were prepared for whoever was at quarterback, so really we just came in to execute our game plan," Milliner said. "We knew coming in they were going to throw the ball around a lot, and we tried to stop that by creating turnovers and getting to the ball."
Alabama made 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage to disrupt any offensive momentum that the Razorbacks were able to generate. The three fummble recoveries came in a game where five different defenders - C.J. Mosley, Deion Belue, Jeoffrey Pagan, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Tana Patrick - forced fumbles. Alabama also got interceptions from Vinnie Sunseri and Clinton-Dix.
The longest plays for Arkansas were a 19-yard pass from Allen to tight end Chris Gragg and Mitchell's only completion in seven attempts, a 19-yarder to Austin Tate.
"One thing we did defensively," Alabama coach Nick Saban said, "was we didn't allow explosive plays."
Arkansas felt the pressure from Alabama's defense.
"It hurts really bad," Mitchell said, referring to shutout defense, "especially when you look at the offensive side. We're a school that's been known for a great offense, and for us to go up there and barely put up 100 yards total, that's just unacceptable as an offense."
Saban said Arkansas was able to generate a little bit of early success by running some option plays out of unexpected formations, but those things didn't work for long.
"There were things that we needed to adjust to," safety Robert Lester said. "Whoever played in the game, we were going to have to adjust for whatever they did."
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.