Alabama Football: Arkansas and the Tide almost even until Nick Saban

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Alabama Football: The Tide and the Razorbacks programs were almost even until Nick Saban.

The Arkansas Razorbacks are on their sixth coach since Alabama football head man, Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. Playing against Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide has been tough on five of them. Sam Pittman gets his first taste on Saturday.

Despite the relatively close proximity, the two programs never played a regular-season game before the Razorbacks joined the SEC. The two teams played in Sugar Bowls in 1962 and 1980. Both games were wins for the Crimson Tide. The 1980 game cemented another Alabama Crimson Tide National Championship.

In the 15 games from 1992 – 2006, Alabama Football won eight times. In 1992, Jack Crowe was a struggling Razorback head coach. After one game, a 10-3 loss to The Citadel, Crowe was fired, and later Crimson Tide assistant, Joe Kines became the interim head coach.

Replacing Kines for the 1993 season was former Alabama football player and National Championship-winning, former, Clemson head coach, Danny Ford. Ford could not match his Clemson success in Fayetteville and was replaced by Houston Nutt in 1998. Nutt had a decent run of 10 seasons and 75 wins with the Razorbacks. In 2006, he hired Gus Malzahn away from Springdale High School, to be the Hogs OC/QB coach. The manner in which Gus undercut Nutt is a story, too lengthy for this post, but revealing about Malzahn’s character.

Not solely, but largely because of Malzahn, a prize QB recruit and his family; Nutt left for Ole Miss in 2008. It was a good time to leave Fayetteville because in 2007 Nick Saban quickly made life miserable for the football Hogs. In a tough Saturday night battle in Tuscaloosa, Saban’s Tide shut the door on the Hogs. Going into the 2007 game, Arkansas had won over the Tide, three out of the last four meetings. The Hogs’ last win over the Crimson Tide was in 2006. Arkansas has rarely come close to beating Alabama since.

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The string of Arkansas coaches Nick Saban has dominated began with Nutt, then Bobby Petrino, followed by John L. Smith for one season. Bret Bielema and Chad Morris came after Smith and continued losing to Saban’s Tide. Sam Pittman has the honor of leading the Razorbacks to a 14th straight loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Going back to the last Arkansas win in 2006, a familiar failing doomed the Crimson Tide. The Arkansas defense was tough on the Tide in 2006. Alabama could only produce 10, first downs and 227 yards on offense. The Crimson Tide run game averaged only 2.1 yards-per-carry. It wasn’t a puny offense that cost the Tide the game, it was the kicking game.

Leigh Tiffin had a great career for the Crimson Tide. On that September day in Fayetteville, Tiffin missed four kicks. One was an extra point, another was a field goal in overtime. His longest of three FG misses was 37 yards.

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By mid-afternoon Saturday, the Crimson Tide will have made it 14 straight over the Hogs. There is nothing the Razorbacks or Sam Pittman can do about it.