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Alabama’s big plays too much for Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Javier Arenas and Justin Woodall scored on long interception returns for touchdowns and No. 9 Alabama opened Southeastern Conference play with a 49-14 rout of Arkansas on Saturday.

Alabama (4-0) led 35-7 at halftime, and six of the Crimson Tide’s seven touchdowns covered at least 25 yards. After Mark Ingram scored on a 1-yard run, Glen Coffee made it 14-0 for Alabama on what appeared to be a basic run up the middle from deep in Crimson Tide territory. Coffee found a hole and suddenly was in the clear, outrunning the Razorbacks for an 87-yard touchdown.

Arkansas (2-1) had to rally for wins over Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe and couldn’t avoid big mistakes in its first SEC game. Casey Dick’s pass late in the first quarter was intercepted by Arenas and returned 63 yards to the end zone. Dick tried to stop him around the 20, but went sprawling as Arenas easily sidestepped him.

The Razorbacks scored on a fourth-down pass from Dick to Andrew Davie, but the Crimson Tide answered with John Parker Wilson’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones.

Woodall scored just over 2 minutes later on a 74-yard interception return. Dick threw toward the right sideline, but his receiver had already turned upfield. Woodall was the only man in the area, and although Dick hustled back, he didn’t come close to tackling the Alabama defensive back.

At the end of the first half, Arkansas had first-and-goal from the 1 and didn’t score. The Razorbacks went to intermission down four touchdowns despite outgaining Alabama for the half.

Dick’s first pass of the second half was also intercepted, and Alabama made it 42-7 on Coffee’s 31-yard touchdown run.

Coffee ran for 162 yards for Alabama, off to a good start in its second season under coach Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide rushed for 328 yards a week before a big matchup at Georgia.

Arkansas started a brutal four-game stretch that also includes games against Texas, Florida and Auburn. The Razorbacks are beginning a new era after running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones went to the NFL. Bobby Petrino was hired as coach in December.

This was Petrino’s most lopsided loss as a college coach. He went 41-9 in four seasons at Louisville before last year’s unpleasant stint with the Atlanta Falcons.

Arkansas freshman Tyler Wilson took over late in the game and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Michael Smith, but Roy Upchurch answered for Alabama with a 62-yard scoring run.