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Alabama Holds Off Arkansas, Clinches SEC West Title

Bryce Young has career night, Alabama clinches ninth SEC West title and wins 15th straight over Razorbacks

TUSCAOOSA, Ala. -- Nick Saban tried to tell anyone who would listen this week that Arkansas would not be an easy win like it had been the past few years.

Like so many times before, Saban was right.

Arkansas gave the No. 2 Crimson Tide all it could handle Saturday on senior day at Bryant-Denny Stadium, with Alabama finally pulling away with a 42-35 win.

The win clinches Alabama’s ninth SEC West Division title in Saban’s 15-year tenure in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide (10-1, 6-1 SEC) will take on No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4 in Atlanta.

"Playing in the West this season was very difficult," Saban said. "We won some close games, and it was a close game today. Resiliency of the players contributed to that."

The game wasn’t a given until just under six minutes to play when Bryce Young connected with Jameson Williams, who made a highlight-reel catch, for a 40-yard touchdown to put Alabama up 42-28. It was the third Young-to-Williams scoring hookup of the night.

"We got that connection when I got here in the summer and now we get to show it off in the game," Williams said. 

Still, Arkansas (7-4, 3-4) didn’t quit, punching the ball in the end zone with a minute to play. The onside kick went out of bounds.

It was an all-star performance for Young, who threw for a school record 559 yards. His five touchdowns are the second-most in Alabama history (Tua Tagovailoa, six in 2019 vs. Ole Miss).

Williams and John Metchie were the top targets for Young. Metchie caught 10 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown, Williams caught eight passes for 190 and the three scores. Brian Robinson ran for 122 yards on 27 carries 

Saban also had some harsh words for Alabama players and fans this week for having an entitlement mentality. Winning six national titles since 2009 can have that effect.

Saban was right about that, too.

In the past when Alabama got a lead it was game over. Not Saturday. Arkansas didn’t back down, and Alabama had to work for everything it got. The Crimson Tide didn’t do itself any favors either.

Three times Alabama got the ball inside the Arkansas 15-yard line in the second half and came away with just three points. A holding penalty negated a Bryce Young touchdown on one of those drives and a Cameron Latu fumble gave the ball to Arkansas on the 1-yard line on a fourth-quarter drive with Alabama hanging on to a 34-28 lead.

"We stopped ourselves in the red zone," Saban said. "We left a lot of points on the board when we could have put the game away."

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There were plenty of highs to go with the lows. Perhaps the biggest celebration of the day belonged to freshman Christian Leary, the receiver-turned emergency running back.

Leary, moved to the backfield due to a rash of injuries at running back, caught a 12-yard touchdown pass on Alabama’s first drive of the second half for his first career score. Players from the Crimson Tide bench took off into the end zone to congratulate Leary.

"It was great to see," Metchie said. "He makes the offense much more dynamic. As you can see we were excited to see that."

Again, Arkansas didn’t flinch, and scored a minute later on a 66-yard reception by Treylon Burks to keep within striking distance of the Crimson Tide, 31-21.

The big play for Arkansas was a fake field goal with 11 minutes to play. Blake Kern hit Reid Bauer for a 32-yard score. Alabama defensive back DeMarcco Hellams was picked by the referee on the play.

"They ran a fake field goal against LSU last week so we called the defense that we wanted to run on that play," Saban said. "Still, we got rubbed off (by the official) and didn't make the play."

After a low-key first quarter with a 3-0 Alabama lead, both teams kicked it into gear. The teams combined for 35 points and 400 yards of offense in a back-and-forth scoring frenzy.

Alabama extended its lead to 10-0 with Young’s first touchdown pass, a 20-yarder to Metchie.

After being held to just 55 total yards in the opening quarter, the Razorbacks found some soft spots in the Alabama secondary. They drove 96 yards on 13 plays and got on the board with a 21-yard touchdown pass from KJ Jefferson to Treylon Burks with just over six minutes left in the half.

The Razorback momentum was short-lived, however. Young connected with Williams for a 79-yard touchdown pass less than a minute later to put Alabama back up by 10 points, 17-7.

Arkansas entered the game as the No. 6 rushing offense in the country, but it was the passing game that got the Razorbacks going. Jefferson was 6 of 7 for 72 yards on the first touchdown drive and 2 of 2 for 56 yards on its second scoring drive. 

Dominique Johnson’s 1-yard run made it a 17-14 lead with 3:40 to play in the second quarter.

Overall, Jefferson was 22 of 30 for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Alabama, the No. 4 rushing defense in the country, held Arkansas to 110 yards on the ground.

Alabama wasted little time again with its response, going 75 yards on six plays in two minutes to go back up by 10. Williams snagged a Young pass and went 32 yards for the score to make it 24-14 before halftime.

Alabama travels to Auburn next week for the final regular-season game. Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. and will be televised by CBS.