TUSCALOOSA — A week ago, when Tua Tagovailoa first went down with a high ankle sprain before halftime against Tennessee, several of Alabama’s veteran defenders decided it was time to take over.
That effort continued a week later as the Crimson Tide defense dominated overmatched Arkansas, including registering four defensive turnovers to send No. 1 Alabama to a 48-7 win on homecoming Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Meanwhile, the offense didn’t miss a beat either with Tagovailoa on the sideline, as backup quarterback Mac Jones kept high-powered Alabama rolling right along with 235 yards on 18-of-22 passing and three touchdowns, including a pair to junior receiver Jerry Jeudy, who finished with a game-high seven receptions for 103 yards.
Led by a team-leading six quarterback hurries from junior outside linebacker Terrell Lewis, the Crimson Tide defense repeatedly harassed Arkansas quarterback Nick Starkel before the Razorbacks went to redshirt freshman John Steven Jones midway through the second quarterback.
Alabama limited Arkansas to 213 total yards Saturday, including just 107 passing yards, and allowed just 3-of-12 third-down conversions in the game.
The Crimson Tide’s turnover-happy defensive effort began on the second defensive possession as true freshman middle linebacker Christian Harris recovered a fumbled snap by Starkel near midfield and returned it 37 yards to the Arkansas 14-yard line.
Alabama didn’t hesitate to take advantage, as Jones took to the air for a 14-yard touchdown strike to junior receiver Henry Ruggs III in the back of the end zone for a 10-0 advantage with 4:03 remaining in the first quarter.
The Tide defense wasn’t done though, as senior outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings made a heads-up diving interception on a tipped pass from Starkel that junior safety Xavier McKinney deflected into the air on the fifth play of Arkansas’s very next series.
Jones took a deep shot on first down of the ensuing series but overthrew Jeudy.
He wouldn’t make that mistake again, connecting with Jeudy for a 14-yard touchdown on a bubble screen pass four plays later to go ahead 17-0 with 34 seconds left in the first quarter.
Alabama’s defense would even find its way into the end zone as senior cornerback Trevon Diggs scored for the second consecutive week with an 84-yard interception return for a touchdown to secure a 41-0 lead with seven seconds left before halftime.
No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) enters its second bye week undefeated ahead of an important SEC West showdown Nov. 9 against No. 2 LSU (8-0, 5-0 SEC) in two weeks.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser sports reporter Alex Byington at email@example.com.