Bama opens with four straight wins for first time since '96

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- It was supposed to be a draw play, but then Alabama's Brodie Croyle saw receiver D.J. Hall standing by himself at the line and wisely changed his mind.

Hall slipped into the end zone with no Arkansas defender anywhere near him and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Croyle in the final minutes of the Crimson Tide's 24-13 victory on Saturday.

"I tried not to get too excited and give it away," said Hall, who also had a 43-yard TD catch. "I looked at Brodie and gave him a little signal. He looked at me and just nodded his head.

"All I was thinking was, 'Don't drop it,'" he said.

He didn't drop it and No. 20 Alabama (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) didn't fumble away its first 4-0 start since 1996. The Razorbacks (1-3, 0-2), who came into the game as 15½-point underdogs, hardly resembled the team manhandled for 70 points and
736 yards by No. 1 Southern California a week earlier.

It was their third straight loss.

"We didn't get the win, so we can't be too satisfied," Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson said. "But we showed people we're better than what we were [last week] and we showed teams they'd better get ready for us."

Juwan Simpson's interception at the Arkansas 40 set up the late scoring drive capped by Hall's TD catch on third-and-goal.

"We had a draw play called," Alabama coach Mike Shula said, "which probably wouldn't have worked."

The Razorbacks had 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.

"When he scored, that's when the game should have been won," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "They're a good football team, but we helped them a little bit. On offense, we didn't block good enough today, especially the offensive line. We're better than that.

"The defense deserved to win this one," he said.

Kyle Dickerson then 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.

Like Hall, Simpson said his primary thought was: "I can't drop it."

Ken 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.

Croyle was 13-of-27 for 173 yards and found Hall down the left sideline for the 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.

After a week of dodging talk about the Gators, Croyle said: "We can talk Florida now."

"I told them after the game, 'Next week's game just got bigger because of what we did today,'" Shula said.

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.

"That's a very tough, physical team we just played," Croyle said. "I think we got the best they're going to give this year.

"It seemed like we had to fight for everything we got all day," he said.