TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama had taken over the game, reeling off 24 consecutive points and seemingly poised for an easy win.
Nothing’s coming quite so easily for this team.
Jalen Milroe passed for two touchdowns and rushed for a third, and No. 11 Alabama survived a second-half Arkansas rally in a 24-21 victory over the Razorbacks on Saturday.
The Crimson Tide (6-1, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) blew most of an 18-point third-quarter lead before summoning a big final drive to keep KJ Jefferson and the Razorbacks offense off the field at the end, The celebration for a close win over a three-touchdown underdog seemed muted.
“We should be dominating games rather than just winning games, and there’s a difference,” Alabama offensive lineman Tyler Booker said.
The Tide remained the only SEC West team without a league loss, but they’re not coming in dominant fashion. Alabama had to recover a late onside kick to hold on for a 26-20 win over Texas A&M a week ago. This time the offense recovered from three straight three-and-out possessions to milk the final 5:19 off the clock.
“We had the resilience to take the clock at the end of the game and not give them the ball back,” Tide coach Nick Saban said after picking up his 200th career win. “Hopefully we can learn how to beat the other team, not just win the game but beat the other team.”
The Razorbacks (2-5, 0-4) dropped their fifth straight game but not before putting a scare into the Tide.
Milroe completed 10 of 21 passes for 238 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown to Kobe Prentice, but was sacked five times. He was on a 1-of-9 stretch in the second half before the final drive, when he also scrambled for a third-down conversion.
Jefferson, meanwhile, stepped up his play after halftime. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 150 yards overall and two second-half touchdowns.
“We knew it would be a tough task for us,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “But we wanted to be in it in the fourth quarter with an opportunity to win it, and that’s what we were.”
Alabama pushed it to 24-6 with a field goal midway through the third quarter. Roydell Williams ripped off runs of 16, 19 and 35 yards on consecutive carries to start the drive before it stalled.
“We thought that was gonna be the first points of many in the second half,” Booker said.
Added Milroe: “I think we just got complacent.”
Jefferson then muscled Arkansas right back into the game.
On consecutive drives, Jefferson had scrambles of 22 and 23 yards before capping them with touchdown passes: 5 yards to Isaiah Sategna and 14 yards to Rashod Dubinion.
A two-point conversion cut it to 24-21 with 10:59 left. The 247-pound Jefferson also busted out of the grasp of Terrion Arnold to turn what seemed a sure sack into a 25-yard pass on that drive.
“That was one of the most impressive plays I’ve ever seen a player make,” Saban said, comparing it to a cow flicking off a gnat.
Arkansas pushed it near midfield with a chance to at least tie but Alabama ended the threat with a third-down sack by Dallas Turner and Justin Eboigbe.
Alabama didn’t give the Razorbacks a second chance, ending with two kneel-downs.
Cam Little kicked field goals of 55 and 49 yards to stake Arkansas to a a 6-0 first-quarter lead.
It only lasted until Milroe’s deep ball to a wide-open Prentice on third-and-long late in the opening quarter, It was his only completion of the quarter.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks lost for the 17th straight time to Alabama. Ultimately it was another in a line of close losses for this team. Tailback Raheim Sanders (knee) didn’t play. Landon Jackson had 11 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks.
Alabama: Pass protection continues to be a major liability. Milroe has been sacked at least four times in five consecutive games, tying the longest streak for an FBS quarterback in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN.
Like the Texas A&M game, it wasn’t likely a performance that boosts the Tide’s stock much. This time it could easily go down.
Alabama kicker Will Reichard became the SEC’s all-time leading scorer with his extra point in the first quarter, moving ahead of the record held by former Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson (480).
Arkansas hosts Mississippi State.
Alabama hosts No. 19 Tennessee.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll