for this game

Wilson's late TD pass lifts Alabama to upset of Arkansas

Sep 16, 2007 - 4:44 AM TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Ticker) -- Darren McFadden reminded the nation why he is a Heisman Trophy candidate. Meanwhile, Nick Saban reminded everyone why he has been one of the most successful college football coaches in recent history.

John Parker Wilson passed for career highs of 327 yards and four touchdowns - including the game-winning score with eight seconds left - to lead Alabama to a 41-38 upset of No. 16 Arkansas in a Southeastern Conference thriller.

Thanks to a wild finish, Saban recorded a landmark win in his first home SEC game at Alabama (3-0, 2-0 SEC West), which exacted a measure of revenge against rival Arkansas (1-1, 0-1 West).

"I am very proud of the way the players competed today," Saban said. "We always talk about playing for 60 minutes in a game and when we score a touchdown with eight seconds left to win a game, it's an easy way to reinforce a point."

"The guys kept their composure and kept their cool," Wilson added. "There were ups and downs, but we were able to keep our composure and finish it off."

The Razorbacks posted a one-point overtime victory last year over the Crimson Tide, who looked ready to avenge the bitter loss early in this one.

Saban, who guided Louisiana State to a share of the national title four years ago, was lured away from the NFL's Miami Dolphins this past offseason to coach Alabama.

"We showed a lot of character in the game to get the ball back at the end of it," he said. "We had a great two-minute drive, and people made plays. It was a tremendous victory for the University of Alabama, for our players, for our fans."

Saban appeared to have his newest SEC team headed in the right direction, as Alabama led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter before Arkansas rallied behind McFadden to take a 38-31 advantage in the fourth quarter.

However, the Crimson Tide converted a late field goal to cut their deficit to 38-34 and set the stage for Wilson, who orchestrated a classic last-minute drive.

Starting at his own 26-yard line with no timeouts and 2:37 left on the clock, Wilson engineered an 11-play drive capped by his three-yard TD pass to Matt Caddell with eight seconds remaining.

"We went out there and I told the guys, 'Let's go win it. Why not?'" Wilson said. "The funny thing is that I was talking to Caddell on the sideline before the game. I told him 'Let's go get a touchdown.' We all knew we could."

Facing a vicious blitz from the Razorbacks, Wilson lofted a perfect pass into the back-left corner of the end zone to the 6-foot Caddell, who outjumped 6-1 cornerback Jamar Love to make it 41-38.

"(I was) really just focusing on making that catch," Caddell said. "That's all. I knew where I had to get it. (Wilson) had faith in me and threw the ball where I could make a play on it. It was just a great play."

"It was a read play," Wilson added. "He wasn't the first guy. He was on down the progression. We were able to throw it up, and he was able to make a great play."

Wilson finished 24-of-44 with just one interception. The junior's favorite target was Caddell, who hauled in nine receptions for 92 yards. D.J. Hall chipped in six receptions for 172 yards and two TDs for Alabama.

Wilson's heroics overshadowed an amazing performance by McFadden, who battled second-half cramping and a late concussion to rush for 200 yards and two TDs on a career-high 34 carries.

"All our backs showed a lot of heart," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "They were just playing their guts out. Darren McFadden played extremely well. He earned every yard he got tonight."

Alabama built a 31-10 lead with 5:15 remaining in the third quarter when Wilson hit tight end Nick Walker for a two-yard TD.

But Arkansas battled back from there, as McFadden and Felix Jones spearheaded a rushing attack which helped the Razorbacks physically dominate the last 20 minutes of the contest.

"Hopefully, the lessons that we will learn are about consistency," Saban said. "We started out the game extremely well offensively and defensively. We lost the momentum of the game in the second quarter. ... We were a little bit up, then down, but came back in the end."

The dynamic duo of McFadden and Jones combined for 59 rushing yards on a late third-quarter drive capped by Casey Dick's two-yard TD pass to tight end Andrew Davie with 3:05 left in the period.

After recovering a fumble at the Alabama 41-yard line, Arkansas clawed within 31-24 on McFadden's first TD of the game - a one-yard score just four seconds into the fourth quarter.

"I felt better running the ball in second half than I did in the first half," McFadden said. "I think their defensive front was getting tired."

The Razorbacks forged a 31-31 tie three minutes later when McFadden scampered in from five yards out, capping a six-play drive which was set up by cornerback Dallas Washington's interception at the Crimson Tide 26.

McFadden continued to battle the cramping on Arkansas' next drive, rumbling for a 20-yard first-down run with 9:58 left.

Jones reeled off a 36-yard run on the following play, and Dick completed a seven-yard TD pass to fullback Peyton Hillis three plays later to give the Razorbacks their first lead of the game at 38-31 with 8:08 left.

But the Crimson Tide did not go away, as Leigh Tiffin drilled a 42-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 38-34 with 4:20 left.

Arkansas did not eat up enough clock time on its next possession - with McFadden on the sideline - and was forced to punt with 2:37 remaining, setting the stage for Alabama's game-winning drive.

Jones finished with 96 yards on 16 carries while Dick completed 11-of-23 passes for 145 yards, three TDs and one interception for Arkansas, which fell to 9-7 all-time in SEC openers.

"I was real proud of our team," Nutt said. "I thought that we started playing football like we know how to play it. We showed a lot of heart and a lot of character. I really thought this was our game."