It May Not be the Oldest Rivalry, but Alabama and Arkansas Have Played Some Big Games

J. Bank

Alabama and Arkansas will meet for the 30th time on Saturday, which will also be homecoming in Tuscaloosa.

The Crimson Tide leads the all-time series, 22-7-0 (19-8 NCAA), and won last year’s meeting, 65-31, in Fayetteville. 

But no meeting between the schools may have been bigger than the first, because the national title was on the line in the 1962 Sugar Bowl. 

The 10-3 win for the Tide cemented Coach Paul Bryant's first national championship.

Led by quarterback Pat Trammell, linebacker/center Lee Roy Jordan and lineman Billy Neighbors, Alabama simply destroyed the competition, beginning with a 32-6 victory at Georgia. Opponents scored 25 points the entire season, compared to 297 for the Tide, with North Carolina State, led by quarterback Roman Gabriel, managing to score the most points, seven.

“They play like it is a sin to give up a point,” Bryant commented.

Just before routing Auburn 34-0 — prompting Shug Jordan to say: “I don’t know if that’s a great team, but they most certainly were great against us. I don’t guess anybody has ever hit us that hard.” — Alabama was ranked No. 1 for the first time all season. 

“Regardless of who was coaching them, they still would have been a great team,” said Bryant, who was also named national coach of the year for the first time. “I said early in the season that they were the nicest, even the sissyist bunch I’d ever had. I think they read it, because later on they got unfriendly.”

Fullback Mike Fracchia was named the most valuable player of Alabama’s first victory at the Sugar Bowl in three attempts. Neighbors was a unanimous All-American selection, the Crimson Tide’s first since 1954. Jordan and Trammell were second-team picks, in addition to All-SEC selections along with Fracchia.

“He can’t run, he can’t pass and he can’t kick,” Bryant said about Trammell. “All he can do is beat you.”

The only touchdown of the game occurred early as it took Alabama just six plays to score.

“We noticed something a little different in their defensive alignment,” the Sugar Bowl achieves have Neighbors saying, “so we made a slight adjustment.” 

The adjustment was to send Fracchia past a defender penetrating into the backfield, resulting in a 43-yard gain down the sideline to the Arkansas 12. On the next play, Trammel faked a pass and ran around the left end into the end zone. 

“We ran that doggone play about six more times and never did do anything with it again,”Neighbors added. 

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Alabama has won the last 12 meetings between the two schools, including a 41-9 finish in the Crimson Tide’s last victory in Tuscaloosa in 2017. 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is 15-2 (14-2 NCAA) in his career against Arkansas, including a 12-0 mark (11-0 NCAA) at Alabama.

Some of the recent series highlights include: 

• Last year, Alabama recorded 639 yards in total offense in a 65-31 victory at Arkansas. 

• During Alabama’s 49-30 win in Fayetteville in 2016, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick picked off three Arkansas passes and returned one a school record 100 yards for a touchdown.

• Alabama’s back-to-back 52-0 shutouts in the 2013 and 2014 seasons mark the most points and the largest margin of victory in the series. 

• In 2008, Saban’s first trip to Fayetteville (LSU played Arkansas in Little Rock during his time in Baton Rouge), the Crimson Tide scored 49 points, in large part because of dominance on the ground with Alabama picking up a series-high 328 rushing yards. 

• The Alabama defense led the 2009 victory, making the Razorbacks’ offense one-dimensional by holding Arkansas to a series-low 63 rushing yards. Meanwhile, Greg McElroy threw for a then-career-best 291 yards and three touchdowns. 

• In 2010, No. 1 ranked Alabama posted a come-from-behind 24-20 victory over No. 10 Arkansas at Razorback Stadium. Junior running back Mark Ingram rushed for 157 yards on 24 attempts and scored two touchdowns. 

• In 2011, Trent Richardson racked up 211 total yards (126 rushing, 85 receiving) including a touchdown reception, while AJ McCarron finished 15-for-20 for 200 yards and two touchdown passes.  

1962 Sugar Bowl game program, Alabama vs. Arkansas
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