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September 24, 2005TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- DJ Hall caught two touchdown passes from Brodie Croyle, including a 5-yarder in the final minutes, in No. 20 Alabama's 24-13 victory over Arkansas on Saturday.
Juwan Simpson's interception at the Arkansas 40 set up the late scoring drive for the Crimson Tide (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference), which has opened with four straight wins for the first time since 1996. On third-and-goal, Hall slipped uncovered into the end zone yards from the nearest defender with 2:22 remaining.
"It was supposed to be a run play. We had seen the same play in the scrimmage (in fall camp)," Croyle said of the back-breaking score. "I gave (Hall) a nod and he tapped his head to let me know he was open, and it worked out."
The Razorbacks (1-3, 0-2), who came into the game as 15 1/2 -point underdogs, hardly resembled the team manhandled for 70 points and 736 yards by No. 1 Southern California a week earlier.
They battled back from a 17-3 deficit in the fourth quarter on two big plays after Tim Castille's 1-yard TD run with 14:15 left gave Alabama the two-touchdown lead.
Darren McFadden raced 70 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown two plays later, brushing off Roman Harper's attempted tackle downfield. Then Kyle Dickerson blocked Jeremy Schatz's punt and Sam Olajubutu recovered at the Tide 11. The Razorbacks managed only Chris Balseiro's 27-yard field goal, however.
Arkansas' defense held again, but Simpson bobbled and then pulled down an interception thrown by Robert Johnson, who had two defenders barreling toward him as he threw.
Kenneth Darby rushed for 98 yards on 18 carries, gaining 22 on the final drive, for Alabama.
The Razorbacks still weren't done, driving to Alabama's 5 before time expired.
"It was a big win for us. It was an emotional Arkansas team that really seemed to play well today," Tide coach Mike Shula said. "Physically they did a lot of good things. You know our guys fought hard and found a way to win the football game. We made some plays when we had to. We made some mistakes but we were able to overcome them.
"I thought our defense did a good job except for the blocked punt which was a major miscommunication. I'm sure we can correct it. It could have been extremely costly."
Croyle was 13-of-27 for 173 yards and found Hall down the left sideline for a 43-yard TD midway through the second quarter on another third-down play for a 7-3 halftime lead.
Ranked for the first time in two years, the win set up Alabama's showdown with No. 5 Florida.
"We've all had our eyes on them since before the season," Croyle said of the Gators. "Each week you have to concentrate on your respective opponent, but this is the type of game you come to Alabama to play in. It'll be fun."
Arkansas used a deep tailback corps to pound out 237 yards rushing against the nation's No. 2 run defense. McFadden gained 95 yards on eight carries. The Razorbacks came in gaining 291 yards on the ground, third nationally.