Caddell TD caps wild finish as Bama upsets Arkansas

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama summoned up one huge defensive stand, a last-minute drive led by John Parker Wilson and Matt Caddell and a final, game-winning pass into the end zone.

Welcome to the Nick Saban era, Bama fans.

Caddell caught a 4-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone from Wilson with eight seconds left, lifting the Crimson Tide to a 41-38 victory over No. 16 Arkansas on Saturday night, winning Saban's first big one at Alabama.

"It was an exciting night, huh?" Saban said.

Certainly for Alabama. The Tide (3-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) survived a relentless onslaught from Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden, and made a sideline decision that worked perfectly.

After twice blowing 21-point leads, Alabama marched down the field from its own 27 over the final 2:13, mostly on the Wilson-to-Caddell connection.

Wilson hit Caddell across the middle for a 19-yard completion and two 9-yarders to move the ball across midfield. Kevin Woods and Matterral Richardson were both whistled for pass interference, Richardson on a third-and-9 play, to set Alabama up with a first down at the 13.

After Wilson hit Keith Brown for a 9-yarder, he found a leaping Caddell in the left side of the end zone two plays later, sending the crowd into a frenzy and prompting a celebratory pileup on the receiver.

"I knew if I got it up there and gave him a chance, he'd make a play," said Wilson, who was 7-for-8 for 56 yards on the final drive. "I got the ball outside and gave Matt a chance to make the play, and he did."

Alabama didn't manage a come-from-behind win in the fourth quarter during Mike Shula's four-year tenure.

The Tide's decision to settle for Leigh Tiffin's 42-yard field goal to make it 38-34 paid off when Arkansas was stopped on its next possession. McFadden sat out the series with a a slight concussion, coach Houston Nutt said.

"I did have confidence that we could stop them," Saban said. "I asked the players on the sidelines, 'Can we stop them?' They said they could, so I believed them. And they did.

"It was the right thing to do."

Casey Dick's 7-yard touchdown pass, his third of the game, to Peyton Hillis with 8:08 left gave Arkansas its first lead. It was set up by McFadden's 20-yard run and a 32-yarder by Felix Jones on consecutive plays.

"I thought that we started playing football like we know how to play it," Nutt said. "We showed a lot of heart and a lot of character. I really thought this was our game."

Arkansas had trailed 31-10 late in the third quarter, but capitalized on a fumble and interception by Wilson. McFadden rushed for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, and finished with 195 yards on 33 carries.

"I felt like our team did not play in the second half like we needed to play," Saban said. "We melted down a little bit, which to me is you drop your guard psychologically."

Alabama countered McFadden with Wilson's passing. He completed 24-of-45 passes for career highs of 327 yards and four touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. Caddell had nine catches for 91 yards and DJ Hall gained a career-high 172 yards on just six receptions. He passed Ozzie Newsome to become the Tide's all-time leading receiver with a 44-yarder on the Tide's first offensive play.

"This is one of those victories that you just hope and pray for the best," Alabama defensive end Wallace Gilberry said.

Terry Grant gained 96 yards on 20 carries for the Tide. Jones ran 16 times for 96 yards for the Razorbacks, who gained 301 yards rushing, mostly in the second half.

"I think their defensive front was getting tired," McFadden said.