By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
The only one who could stop Kenyan Drake on the Alabama running back's fifth carry Saturday night was his own offensive lineman. And even then, the sophomore was merely slowed, but only for a second.
After the initial setback, the speedster known simply as the “road runner” turned on the moves — and the jets — cutting right and then outrunning two Arkansas defenders down the sideline on his way to the end zone for an electrifying 46-yard touchdown.
Beep beep, indeed.
The score was Drake's second of the evening — his first came on a 1-yarder in the opening quarter — and had the top-ranked Tide well on their way to an eventual 52-0 shutout of the Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The tailback tandem of Drake (104) and T.J. Yeldon (86) nearly topped 100 rushing yards together for a second straight week, but it was more than OK they came up short, as Drake and Derrick Henry combined for the feat instead. The freshman capped off a game-high 111-yard performance with a sensational 80-yard scoring scamper in the final minute.
Drake finished the first half with 86 rushing yards, more than half coming on the touchdown run and another 23 on the ensuing drive to set up Alabama's fourth touchdown.
Two plays after Drake sprinted all the way to Arkansas' 30 — and one after Amari Cooper dropped a sideline pass from AJ McCarron — Cooper earned immediate redemption by hauling in a perfect throw from his senior signal-caller.
The touchdown was the first of the season for the sophomore, who, despite battling injuries early, has had to deal with sky-high expectations following a spectacular freshman campaign.
Speaking of firsts, freshman tight end O.J. Howard roped in the first touchdown of his promising young career early in the third quarter. Three plays after Henry forced a fumble that Eddie Jackson recovered on the second-half kickoff, a wide-open Howard caught a short pass from McCarron and took it 17 yards for the score.
If sharing is indeed caring, McCarron truly does care about his wide receiving corps. Each of the quarterback's three touchdowns were thrown to different targets — Jalston Fowler (4 yards), Cooper (30) and Howard (17). Before stepping aside for backup Blake Sims, McCarron spread his 15 completions among eight receivers.
% Not a Laughing Matter: C.J. Mosley gave Ha Ha Clinton-Dix the perfect welcome-back gift in the Tide safety's first series following a two-game suspension.
On the heels of a 25-yard pass-and-catch between Brandon Allen and Hunter Henry — Arkansas' longest play of the night — Mosley tipped Allen's very next pass straight up for Clinton-Dix to snag with ease.
Clinton-Dix wasn't expected to see the field so early but was thrust into action when fan-favorite Vinnie Sunseri left the field with what Nick Saban called a knee injury after the game. The coach said the injury “could be serious" and that an MRI is scheduled for Monday.
Cyrus Jones also picked off his second pass of the season.
% They Like to Move It, Move It: Alabama has had a far easier time moving the chains than its foes through seven games.
With Saturday night's contest in the books, the Tide have now recorded 170 first downs, compared to 100 by their opponents.
% First-Half Domination: The first and second quarters have been awful kind to Alabama on both sides of the ball, this season for the O and some of 2012, too, for the D.
The Tide topped 250 yards of total offense by halftime for the third game in a row by rounding up 270 before the break on Saturday. They rolled up 372 against Kentucky and 308 versus Georgia State.
On the other side of the ball, the Razorbacks' goose egg at intermission marked the eighth time in the previous 11 games Alabama kept its foe off the scoreboard in the first half.
In the last four full games, the Tide have notched two shutouts and yielded just 10 points.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.