October 20, 2013 1:56:01 AM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The top-ranked Alabama football team didn't catch the upset bug that struck much of the Southeastern Conference.
Alabama looked perfectly robust in a 52-0 romp against struggling Arkansas on Saturday night, racking up 352 yards rushing, big plays and yet another stout defensive performance.
AJ McCarron threw three touchdown passes, Kenyan Drake rushed for 104 yards and two scores, and freshman Derrick Henry tacked on an 80-yard run in the last minute as a final blow.
The Tide (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) rolled to a 28-0 halftime lead on a day when No. 6 LSU, No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 11 South Carolina, No. 15 Georgia, and No. 22 Florida fell -- three of them to unranked opponents.
Alabama didn't give fans anything to worry about, and many of them had streamed out of the stadium long before Henry's big run.
"We're starting to come together more," McCarron said. "Guys are starting to do the right things. Not only on the field but off the field. We're going to class, education. That's the most important thing. Everyone's starting to buy into the process. It helps us."
The Tide has won by the same margin over Arkansas two years running.
It's the first time Alabama has shut out an SEC opponent two years in a row since victories against Mississippi State in 1973-74.
"We pride ourselves on being a tough, relentless defense and we got it done tonight," said Tide cornerback Deion Belue, who blocked a field goal to preserve the shutout.
"Having a zero at the end of the game is going to feel great. We come in to play great defense."
The Razorbacks (3-5, 0-4) have dropped five straight games --the longest losing streak of Bret Bielema's head coaching career -- and were coming off a 52-7 loss to No. 11 South Carolina.
"This is getting a little old," Bielema said. "It's a long way to go. We just can't have one missed tackle turn into a touchdown. It happened on two or three occasions."
The Tide outgained Arkansas 532-256 in total yards.
McCarron was 15 of 21 for 180 yards in three quarters, including touchdowns of 4, 30, and 17 yards.
Drake needed just eight carries to reach 100 yards for the second straight week. T.J. Yeldon had 88 yards and a 24-yard touchdown on 12 carries. Yeldon caught four passes for 45 yards.
Henry ran for 111 yards on six carries, all in the fourth quarter. The Razorbacks had allowed only eight rushing touchdowns in the first seven games, but gave up four Saturday.
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen continued to struggle in the team's fourth consecutive game against a ranked team. He was 7 of 25 for 91 yards with two interceptions.
"We have to stay together," Razorbacks defensive tackle Darius Philon said. "We've still got a whole lot of the season to go."
The Tide also managed to contain Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, who both came in ranked among the SEC's top seven rushers. Collins ran for 77 yards on 18 carries and Williams had 13 rushes for 48 yards.
"We certainly respect their passing game but we were really trying to stop the run as much as possible," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Alabama has allowed just one touchdown and 16 points in its last five games.
The offense pounded away at Arkansas but also produced some big plays, especially in the first half.
Drake bounced off tight end Brian Vogler at the line and burst outside for a 46-yard touchdown.
Amari Cooper, easily the Tide's best receiver as a freshman, caught his first touchdown pass of the season. He dropped one ball on the sideline then caught a near-perfect throw from McCarron on the next play for the TD.
Freshman tight end O.J. Howard added a 17-yard catch for his first career touchdown in the third quarter.
Defensively, Alabama got one veteran safety back but might have lost another.
Vinnie Sunseri left the game with an apparent leg injury in the first quarter. He limped off the field after helping cover a kick, headed to the locker room and didn't return to the game.
Free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix returned from a two-game suspension and picked off a tipped pass for his first interception of the season after Arkansas moved into Alabama territory on its second drive.
Clinton-Dix was reinstated by the NCAA on Friday after reportedly accepting a short-term loan from an assistant strength and conditioning coach.
"It felt great just to be back with my team," he said.