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10 things we learned after Alabama’s offense exploded against Arkansas

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s offense continued to put up big numbers as it blew past Arkansas for a 65-31 victory. Here are 10 things we learned from the game.

1. Alabama’s offense keeps on rolling

Nick Saban wasn’t completely satisfied with Alabama’s blowout win. Although, when it came to the Crimson Tide’s offense, the hyper-critical head coach had no complaints.

Alabama piled up a season-high 639 yards of total offense while also reaching its highest points total of the year. The 639 yards are the eighth-best offensive tally in school history and the fourth highest in Saban’s tenure. They also mark Alabama’s second 600-yard game in as many weeks.

“I thought we did an outstanding job out there on offense,” Saban said. “We made a lot of explosive plays, made a lot of big plays, controlled the line of scrimmage pretty well. When you score 65 points, you can’t complain much.”

Alabama has scored 45 points or more in each of its first six games this season, a feat never before accomplished in school history.

2. Another fast start

Last year, Damien Harris hit Arkansas with a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. This year, Irv Smith Jr. did the honors. The tight end caught a short pass from Tua Tagovailoa before rumbling 76 yards for a touchdown.

“I see him catch it and I’m thinking someone is going to push him out of bounds,” Harris said. “One guy misses then another guy misses, another guy misses. It was like, ‘Well, that was quick.’ … I came over to the sideline like, ‘You’re trying to be like me because I scored on the first play last year.’ It was a pretty cool moment.”

The score was part of a prolific first half for Alabama as the Crimson Tide piled up 463 yards of total offense to head into the break leading 41-14. Alabama has recorded 340 or more total yards in the first half in five of its six games and is averaging 375.6 yards in first halves this season.

Alabama is also outscoring its opponents 238-34 in the first half. If you only counted the 39.7 points Alabama has averaged in the first half, it would still rank No. 27 nationally in scoring entering Saturday’s game.

3. Tagovailoa strengthens his Heisman case

On a day where other Heisman contenders suffered setbacks, Tagovailoa continued to strengthen his case for college football’s top individual prize.

Tagovailoa completed 10 of 13 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns putting up all his stats in the first half. It was the first time a Power 5 QB has thrown for 300 or more yards and four scores in the first half of a conference game since Patrick Mahomes did it for Texas Tech against Baylor in 2016.

In his three SEC games this season, Tagovailoa has completed 43 of 58 passes (74 percent) for 912 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions. He has now led Alabama to touchdowns on 31 of the 44 drives he has been a part of.

Heading into the day, most viewed Tagovailoa as one of three Heisman favorites, including Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and West Virginia quarterback Will Grier.

Murray completed 19 of 25 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns with an interception while adding 92 yards and a touchdown on the ground against Texas on Saturday. However, the Sooners suffered their first loss of the season in a 48-45 heartbreaker to the Longhorns.

Grier led West Virginia to a 38-22 victory over Kansas but threw three first-half interceptions in the process. He finished the day 28 of 41 for 332 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions.

4. Damien Harris hits the century mark

Since deciding to return for his senior year, Harris has taken a team-first motto. However, the starting running back admits Alabama’s first possession of the second half was a little fun. On that drive, Harris took the ball six times capping it off by diving over the goal line on fourth-and-goal for his second touchdown of the game.

“I’m still a running back,” Harris said. “Even though we’re playing pretty well on offense, we still love to run the ball.”

Harris led Alabama with 111 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, marking his first 100-yard game of the season. Harris now has 2,555 yards on the ground for his career, moving him into 11th place on Alabama’s career rushing chart. Saturday’s performance was the eighth 100-yard rushing game of his career and his first since running for 125 yards during last season’s game against Arkansas.

5. Alabama’s defense struggles

The reason for Saban’s bittersweet mood following Saturday’s game came from his defense’s inconsistent performance. The Crimson Tide allowed a season-high 405 yards of total offense while giving up more points than it had since its national championship defeat to Clemson in 2017.

“We made a lot of mistakes on defense today,” Saban said. “We didn’t play well together as a unit. We had lots of opportunities to get off the field on third down and just didn’t do it, which allowed them to extend drives. I don’t think we really beat the other team when you give up 31 points.”

Following the game, defensive lineman Quinnen Williams said the poor performance created a “great opportunity” for a learning experience moving forward.

“We know we have to work on a lot of stuff,” he said. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board, watch film and learn from our mistakes.”

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