3:30 PM ET, September 23, 2006
Razorback Stadium, FAYETTEVILLE, AR
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Maybe this will help Arkansas shake off the last two frustrating seasons.
A little multiple-overtime magic -- it's what the Razorbacks do best.
"We never gave up even when we could have let go of the rope," Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt said. "We had a lot of heroes."
The Crimson Tide took a 23-17 lead on a 1-yard pass from John Parker Wilson to Nick Walker, but Leigh Tiffin finished a horrendous afternoon of kicking by missing the extra point. Tiffin had already missed a 33-yard field goal attempt in the first half, a 30-yarder late in the fourth quarter and a 37-yarder that would have won it in the first overtime.
Arkansas faced third down at the 11 on its final possession, but Alabama lost track of Cleveland, and he came down with Mustain's pass in the end zone to tie it.
The celebration was a bit subdued at first -- Davis had missed an extra point himself in the third quarter. But when his final kick sailed through, the Razorbacks charged onto the field.
"You can't take an extra point for granted," Nutt said. "I'm proud of him coming back like that."
Nutt, under pressure around Arkansas after two straight losing seasons, led the crowd in a loud rendition of the school's fight song. The Razorbacks (3-1) are 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1998, his first season as their coach.
Arkansas also added to its legacy of overtime thrillers. The Razorbacks are 6-1 in overtime, although this was their first home game that required an extra session.
Arkansas won the two longest games in NCAA history -- in seven overtimes over Mississippi in 2003 and Kentucky in 2001. The Razorbacks also lost a six-overtime game to Tennessee in 2002.
Alabama (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) has now lost twice to Arkansas in double overtime. The Razorbacks beat the Crimson Tide 34-31 in 2003.
"This is a heartbreaking loss," Alabama coach Mike Shula said. "It's tough to swallow. Things happened every quarter both good and bad."
Arkansas appeared doomed on two different occasions. Alabama was driving in the fourth quarter, but after reaching the Razorbacks' 9-yard line, the Crimson Tide ran the ball three straight times. Tiffin, who had made a 46-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter, missed with 3:06 remaining in the fourth.
In the first overtime, Mustain's deep pass was intercepted by Lionel Mitchell, who returned it to around midfield -- if he'd gone all the way, the game would have ended right there. After that, Alabama ran three straight times, again appearing content to play for a winning field goal. But Tiffin missed the same way he missed his other kicks -- wide right.
Tiffin's fourth-quarter kick was the margin in the Crimson Tide's 13-10 win over Vanderbilt two weekends ago. He's been handling placekicking duties because of an injury to Jamie Christensen, who made three winning kicks late in the fourth quarter last year.
"Jamie hasn't had enough reps," Shula said. "I didn't want to put him in a rough situation. Leigh kicked a 46-yard field goal into the wind."
Arkansas' game against Vanderbilt also came down to a kick -- and like this week, the Razorbacks won because of a miss. They edged the Commodores 21-19 last week when Bryant Hahnfeldt's 48-yard attempt late in the fourth quarter fell short.
Mustain, the Razorbacks' prized freshman, went 7-of-22 for 97 yards with three interceptions against Alabama. But when it mattered most, he found the 6-foot-4 Cleveland -- a teammate of his last year at Springdale High School in Arkansas. Mustain said the play was supposed to be a 5-yard hitch route.
"I was hoping he'd keep going and he did," Mustain said.
Wilson, a sophomore, was nearly flawless in his first road start. He went 16-of-20 for 243 yards and three touchdowns, including a 78-yard scoring pass to DJ Hall in the second quarter that made it 7-3. Alabama led 10-3 at halftime, but Arkansas scored on Darren McFadden's 3-yard run early in the third quarter.
Davis missed the extra point, leaving the score at 10-9, but Randy Kelly returned Wilson's fumble 39 yards for a touchdown later in the period, and Mustain threw to McFadden for a 2-point conversion to make it 17-10.
That was Arkansas' first takeaway of the season. The Razorbacks were the last team in Division I-A to force a turnover.
Wilson threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Keith Brown with 13:36 remaining to tie it at 17.
Alabama is 2-6 in overtime games and hasn't won one since 1999.
Hall had six catches for 144 yards, but the Crimson Tide's Ken Darby, a 1,000-yard rusher the last two seasons, was held to 64 by Arkansas. McFadden ran for 112 for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas has next weekend off before traveling to play No. 2 Auburn. Alabama is at No. 5 Florida next weekend.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||7-18||6-11|
|4th Down Conversions||2-2||0-0|
|FG||4:43||JEREMY DAVIS 24 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 30 yards.
|TD||8:50||DJ HALL 78 YD PASS FROM JOHN PARKER WILSON (LEIGH TIFFIN KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 99 yards.
|FG||0:00||LEIGH TIFFIN 46 YD FG|
Drive info: 11 plays, 51 yards.
|TD||9:04||DARREN MCFADDEN 3 YD RUN (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 13 plays, 93 yards.
|TD||4:08||RANDY KELLY 39 YD DEFENSIVE FUMBLE RETURN (DARREN MCFADDEN 2PT PASS FROM MITCH MUSTAIN)||10||17|
|TD||13:36||KEITH BROWN 14 YD PASS FROM JOHN PARKER WILSON (LEIGH TIFFIN KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 75 yards.
|TD||0:00||NICK WALKER 1 YD PASS FROM JOHN PARKER WILSON (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 0 yards.
|TD||0:00||BEN CLEVELAND 11 YD PASS FROM MITCH MUSTAIN (JEREMY DAVIS KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 0 yards.