TUSCALOOSA | Offensive aggressiveness is what Arkansas is known for, but it was the University of Alabama that did whatever was necessary to crack the scoreboard first Saturday.
It ended with a trick play as Michael Williams caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron on a fake field goal. But there was a sense of aggressiveness throughout the drive that spoke volumes about the UA staff's emphasis on taking an early lead against a team that seized an early lead over Alabama a year ago and nearly held it.
Start with a no-huddle approach the Crimson Tide employed on the game's opening drive, going straight to the line of scrimmage between plays and preventing the Razorbacks defense from substituting easily.
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"That was really important," Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones said. "That's something we had planned on, to come out quick and catch them on their heels. I think we did a good job of moving the ball early with that tempo."
About the only stoppage of play on the drive was when Arkansas defensive end Tenarius Wright injured himself and needed assistance. Other than that, Alabama was in hurry-up mode.
Then there was a shotgun-T formation, something rarely seen from the UA offense, with Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy in the game at the same time and lined up on either side of McCarron.
It was an unorthodox drive to say the least, but it resulted in seven points just the same.
"The pace was wonderful. That caught them off-guard," said wide receiver Marquis Maze. "Usually we don't come out with a fast-paced game."
After a 21-yard run by Richardson and a 12-yard pass to Maze resulted in first downs, the Crimson Tide's drive stalled at the Arkansas 37. That's when the fake punt struck the game's first major blow. McCarron, who is normally the holder on field goals, stood up during the cadence as kicker Cade Foster went in motion to the left side. McCarron took the snap, surveyed the field and found Williams for a 37-yard, over-the-shoulder catch and a 7-0 lead.
"That play was very important because we had gotten stopped," said Williams. "We wanted to start fast and finish strong, so that touchdown was a good boost for us. We had driven the ball, but then we stalled down in the red zone."
Immediately after the play, former UA quarterback Greg McElroy, now with the New York Jets, tweeted the Crimson Tide has been practicing the play for an entire year but had never called it in a game until Saturday.
"AJ did a nice job on it, Mike did a nice job on it, and we have been working on it for awhile," UA coach Nick Saban said. "If practice means anything, we executed it well."
The drive went 80 yards in only 3:12 over seven plays.
It was Williams' second touchdown catch of the season, and the second of his career to have come on a trick play. Williams pulled in a touchdown pass from Maze from the wildcat formation a year ago against Florida.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.