Alabama Football: Defensive report card vs Arkansas

Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports /
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Alabama Football
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama Football Special Teams: D

The Alabama special teams has been a strength this season, and was well on its way to continuing that trend. Kool-Aid McKinstry had a 45-yard punt return that contributed to him averaging 26 yards on three opportunities. McKinstry is easily the nation’s leader in punt return yardage, and it is only a matter of time before he scores on a return.

Will Reichard is one of college football’s best kickers, but he experienced his first miss of the season against Arkansas. Reichard’s 53-yard attempt sailed wide right, and was his only field goal try of the day. Still, it is hard to criticize such a consistent player for missing such a difficult kick.

The reason the special teams get knocked here is because of the catastrophic meltdown that occurred in the third quarter. Alabama struggled on both offense and defense in this stretch, but two disastrous special teams plays made an enormous difference in the game.

After Arkansas scored to cut the lead to 28-14, Sam Pittman pulled a surprise onside kick out of his hat. The Tide kick return unit was caught completely off-guard, and the Arkansas kicker recovered his own perfectly-executed kick with no resistance.

In recent years, Alabama has been regularly unprepared for special teams stunts. Most memorably, the Tide was victimized by a fake field goal for a touchdown against Arkansas last year. This was just two weeks after LSU successfully faked a punt against Alabama on a similar play.

Fortunately, the Alabama defense limited Arkansas to a field goal following the onside recovery, but the momentum had completely flipped in the Razorbacks’ favor at that point.

Just over a minute later, disaster struck again after the Tide offense went three-and-out. Long snapper Kneeland Hibbett botched a snap as Alabama attempted to punt, and James Burnip inexplicably fell on the ball inside the 5-yard line, essentially gift-wrapping Arkansas another touchdown.

Next. Imperfect performance will benefit Tide. dark

Overall, special teams is still a net strength for Alabama football. However, these types of errors will undoubtedly cost Alabama a game at some point if they continue to occur.