FAYETTEVILLE -- It turns out Nick Saban is an admirer of University of Arkansas basketball.
Saban, in his 12th season as Alabama's football coach, said last week on his radio show that he wants the Crimson Tide to compete like the Razorbacks' 1994 national championship basketball team.
"The old Arkansas basketball coach, Nolan Richardson, his motto for his team that won the national championship was 'Forty Minutes of Hell. We want to put pressure on the other team for 40 minutes in the game until they break,' " Saban said. "That's something that we've been trying to get our team to do.
"It's 60 minutes in football. I'm not real satisfied with how we've been able to sustain the level of consistency, effort, toughness for 60 minutes of the game. We've played very well at times, and we haven't been in a game where we needed to play for 60 minutes."
Fifteen minutes has been plenty for the defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) so far this season. Alabama has outscored its opponents 103-14 in the first quarter and 271-65 overall.
Last week the Tide beat Louisiana-Lafayette 56-14 after taking a 49-0 halftime lead.
"They're clicking on all cylinders," Ragin' Cajuns Coach Billy Napier said.
Alabama plays Arkansas at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"We've obviously got a great opponent coming in," Razorbacks Coach Chad Morris said. "They have been the standard for college football over the last several years.
"Watching film on them, there are very few deficiencies. They do what they do, and they do it at a very high level."
Alabama, which has won five national championships under Saban since 2009, continues to be strong on defense and in the run game, but with the added dimension of a potent passing attack.
"On offense, they're as good as they've been in a long time with the quarterback and the complement of all the skill players that they have," Napier said.
Sophomore Tua Tagovailoa has taken over for junior Jalen Hurts as Alabama's starting quarterback.
Tagovailoa -- who came off the bench in last season's national title game to rally the Tide to a 26-23 overtime victory against Georgia -- has completed 66 of 88 passes (75 percent) for 1,166 yards and 14 touchdowns without an interception in his five starts. He completed 8 of 8 passes for 128 yards in leading Alabama to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"He's got uncanny accuracy and touch on the ball," said Napier, a former Tide assistant coach. "He really can control [his passes] from all kinds of different arm slots.
"The big thing for him is he's got tremendous skill around him. He's got guys getting open and winning matchups. Don't overlook the offensive line and the pass protection they're getting."
Alabama is averaging 54.2 points to lead the nation in scoring and is fifth in total offense at 553.2 yards per game.
Najee Harris has rushed 49 times for 319 yards and 4 touchdowns. Damien Harris has rushed 36 times for 250 yards.
Jerry Jeudy has a team-high 19 receptions for 423 yards and 6 touchdowns. Henry Ruggs has 16 receptions for 296 yards and 5 touchdowns.
"It looks like they ordered their offensive players out of a catalog," Napier said. "If you could pick whatever you want at each position, this is exactly what you'd order."
The same could be said of Alabama's defense, which is holding opponents to an average of 13.0 points (third nationally) and 317.6 yards (sixth nationally).
"I think Alabama's very, very good on defense, like they always are," Ole Miss Coach Matt Luke said. "They give their offense a lot of chances."
Alabama won 62-7 at Ole Miss after the Rebels took a 7-0 lead on the game's first offensive play when Jordan Ta'amu hit D.K. Metcalf with a 75-yard touchdown pass. The Tide responded by tying it 7-7 in three plays and led 28-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Ole Miss trailed 14-7 when Alabama faced third and 4 from the Rebels 43. Tagovailoa scrambled for a 15-yard gain.
"I was impressed with Tua's poise on the road and his ability to extend plays," Luke said. "We had everybody covered on a third down, and then he scrambled to get the first down. That's demoralizing for a defense.
"If the play breaks down, he's good enough to do something with his feet."
Alabama gained 516 yards against Ole Miss with Tagovailoa completing 11 of 15 passes for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"They still have the same running game, but they have several receivers that are really, really fast and are mismatches against one-on-one coverage," Luke said. "And they have a quarterback that can deliver the ball to them in those situations."
Saban has been careful not to heap too much praise on Tagovailoa because he doesn't want to show any disrespect to Hurts, who is 26-2 as a starter and this season has completed 26 of 37 passes [70.3 percent) for 5 touchdowns with 1 interception.
"Look, we have a lot of confidence in both of our guys here," Saban said Monday when asked whether Tagovailoa has exceeded expectations. "We have a lot of confidence in Tua.
"He has played extremely well in every game. He's right on target most of the time, not only in where he delivers the ball, but who he delivers it to and why he should do it that way."
Free safety Deionte Thompson leads Alabama with 27 tackles, and he has 2 interceptions and 1 forced fumble. Defensive end Isaiah Buggs has a team-high 5½ sacks, and outside linebacker Christian Miller has 4½.
Alabama has three interception returns for touchdowns -- Shyheim Carter against Louisville, Savion Smith against Arkansas State and Xavier McKinney against Ole Miss. The Tide also have scored two touchdowns on special teams with Josh Jacobs' kickoff return against Louisville and Jaylen Waddle's punt return against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"They've very explosive on offense, and they're big and physical and fast on defense," Napier said. "They're a team that's playing with a lot of precision right now."
Saban might not agree.
"I ask myself this question all the time," Saban said on his radio show last week. "Are we good enough right now the way we're playing to beat the best teams?
"I would say there's a lot of areas that we really need to improve on if we're going to be able to do that."
NO. 1 ALABAMA AT ARKANSAS
WHEN 11 a.m.
WHERE Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville
Sports on 10/03/2018
Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
Sept. 1;vs. Louisville^;W, 51-14
Sept. 8;Arkansas State;W, 57-7
Sept. 15;at Ole Miss*;W, 62-7
Sept. 22;Texas A&M*;W, 45-23
Sept. 29;Louisiana-Lafayette;W, 56-14
Saturday;at Arkansas*;11 a.m.
Oct. 13;Missouri*;6 p.m.
Oct. 20;at Tennessee*;TBA
Nov. 3;at LSU*;TBA
Nov. 10;Mississippi State*;TBA
Nov. 17;The Citadel;TBA
^Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
Print Headline: Nick Saban: Crimson Tide needs to compete like Razorbacks' 1994 championship basketball team