FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Maybe this will help Arkansas shake
off the last two frustrating seasons.
A little multiple-overtime magic -- it's what the Razorbacks do
"We never gave up even when we could have let go of the rope,"
Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt said. "We had a lot of heroes."
The Crimson Tide took a 23-17 lead on a 1-yard pass from John
Parker Wilson to Nick Walker, but Leigh Tiffin finished a
horrendous afternoon of kicking by missing the extra point. Tiffin
had already missed a 33-yard field goal attempt in the first half,
a 30-yarder late in the fourth quarter and a 37-yarder that would
have won it in the first overtime.
Arkansas faced third down at the 11 on its final possession, but
Alabama lost track of Cleveland, and he came down with Mustain's
pass in the end zone to tie it.
The celebration was a bit subdued at first -- Davis had missed an
extra point himself in the third quarter. But when his final kick
sailed through, the Razorbacks charged onto the field.
"You can't take an extra point for granted," Nutt said. "I'm
proud of him coming back like that."
Nutt, under pressure around Arkansas after two straight losing
seasons, led the crowd in a loud rendition of the school's fight
song. The Razorbacks (3-1) are 2-0 in SEC play for the first time
since 1998, his first season as their coach.
Arkansas also added to its legacy of overtime thrillers. The
Razorbacks are 6-1 in overtime, although this was their first home
game that required an extra session.
Arkansas won the two longest games in NCAA history -- in seven
overtimes over Mississippi in 2003 and Kentucky in 2001. The
Razorbacks also lost a six-overtime game to Tennessee in 2002.
Alabama (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) has now lost twice to
Arkansas in double overtime. The Razorbacks beat the Crimson Tide
34-31 in 2003.
"This is a heartbreaking loss," Alabama coach Mike Shula said.
"It's tough to swallow. Things happened every quarter both good
Arkansas appeared doomed on two different occasions. Alabama was
driving in the fourth quarter, but after reaching the Razorbacks'
9-yard line, the Crimson Tide ran the ball three straight times.
Tiffin, who had made a 46-yard field goal at the end of the second
quarter, missed with 3:06 remaining in the fourth.
In the first overtime, Mustain's deep pass was intercepted by
Lionel Mitchell, who returned it to around midfield -- if he'd gone
all the way, the game would have ended right there. After that,
Alabama ran three straight times, again appearing content to play
for a winning field goal. But Tiffin missed the same way he missed
his other kicks -- wide right.
Tiffin's fourth-quarter kick was the margin in the Crimson
Tide's 13-10 win over Vanderbilt two weekends ago. He's been
handling placekicking duties because of an injury to Jamie
Christensen, who made three winning kicks late in the fourth
quarter last year.
"Jamie hasn't had enough reps," Shula said. "I didn't want to
put him in a rough situation. Leigh kicked a 46-yard field goal
into the wind."
Arkansas' game against Vanderbilt also came down to a kick -- and
like this week, the Razorbacks won because of a miss. They edged
the Commodores 21-19 last week when Bryant Hahnfeldt's 48-yard
attempt late in the fourth quarter fell short.
Mustain, the Razorbacks' prized freshman, went 7-of-22 for 97
yards with three interceptions against Alabama. But when it
mattered most, he found the 6-foot-4 Cleveland -- a teammate of his
last year at Springdale High School in Arkansas. Mustain said the
play was supposed to be a 5-yard hitch route.
"I was hoping he'd keep going and he did," Mustain said.
Wilson, a sophomore, was nearly flawless in his first road
start. He went 16-of-20 for 243 yards and three touchdowns,
including a 78-yard scoring pass to DJ Hall in the second quarter
that made it 7-3. Alabama led 10-3 at halftime, but Arkansas scored
on Darren McFadden's 3-yard run early in the third quarter.
Davis missed the extra point, leaving the score at 10-9, but
Randy Kelly returned Wilson's fumble 39 yards for a touchdown later
in the period, and Mustain threw to McFadden for a 2-point
conversion to make it 17-10.
That was Arkansas' first takeaway of the season. The Razorbacks
were the last team in Division I-A to force a turnover.
Wilson threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Keith Brown with 13:36
remaining to tie it at 17.
Alabama is 2-6 in overtime games and hasn't won one since 1999.
Hall had six catches for 144 yards, but the Crimson Tide's Ken
Darby, a 1,000-yard rusher the last two seasons, was held to 64 by
Arkansas. McFadden ran for 112 for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas has next weekend off before traveling to play No. 2
Auburn. Alabama is at No. 5 Florida next weekend.
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