OT is kind to Hogs again
By TIMES WIRES
Published September 24, 2006
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - A little multiple-overtime magic is what Arkansas does best.
Mitch Mustain threw an 11-yard touchdown to Ben Cleveland in the second session, and Jeremy Davis' extra point gave the Razorbacks a 24-23 win over Alabama on Saturday.
"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 by missing the extra point. Tiffin previously missed a 33-yard field goal in the first half, a 30-yarder late in regulation 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 Mustain, a prized freshman, found the 6-foot-4 Cleveland - a high school teammate - on a play that was supposed to be a 5-yard hitch route.
"I was hoping he'd keep going, and he did," Mustain said.
The celebration was a bit subdued at first. Davis missed an extra point in the third. But when his 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."
Arkansas' game last week 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 when Bryant Hahnfeldt's 48-yarder late fell short.
Nutt, under pressure after consecutive losing seasons, led the crowd in a rendition of the school's fight song. The Razorbacks are 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1998, his first season as coach.
Arkansas also added to its legacy of overtime thrillers. Arkansas, 6-1 in overtime, won the two longest games in NCAA history, seven overtimes over Mississippi in 2003 and Kentucky in 2001. It also lost a six-overtime game to Tennessee in 2002.
Alabama has now lost twice to Arkansas in double overtime. The Razorbacks beat the Crimson Tide 34-31 in 2003. Overall, Alabama is 2-6 in overtime games and hasn't won one since 1999.
"This is a heartbreaking loss," coach Mike Shula said. "It's tough to swallow. Things happened every quarter both good and bad."
Arkansas appeared doomed on two occasions. Alabama was driving in the fourth, but after reaching the 9, it ran the ball three times. Tiffin, who made a 46-yard field goal at the end of the first half, missed with 3:06 left.
In the first overtime, Mustain's deep pass was intercepted by Lionel Mitchell, who returned it to about midfield. If he had gone all the way, the game would have ended. After that, Alabama ran three straight times. 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 weeks ago. He has been kicking in place of the injured Jamie Christensen, who made three late winning kicks last season.
"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."