TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Bryce Young passed for more yards than any Alabama quarterback ever had in a game.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide needed that kind of performance – and every timely deep ball to Jameson Williams, too.
Young passed for a school-record 559 yards and five touchdowns and No. 2 Alabama clinched a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game with a 42-35 victory Saturday over No. 21 Arkansas.
The Tide (10-1, 7-1, No. 2 CFP) won its 15th consecutive game against the Razorbacks (7-4, 3-4), thanks largely to the Young-to-Williams deep connection that continues to be the ultimate offensive bailout.
Alabama set up a date with No. 1 Georgia in Atlanta on Dec. 4 after a visit to rival Auburn.
“We left a lot of points on the board where we could have put the game away,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “And defensively, we gave up a couple of big plays but the big thing was they were like 10 of 19 on third and fourth down so when we had opportunities to get off the field we didn’t get off the field.”
This one wasn’t settled until Arkansas’s onside kick went out of bounds with 1:02 left.
The Razorbacks had stayed alive with Raheim Sanders‘ 17-yard touchdown catch from K.J. Jefferson, but took nearly five minutes to get there.
Young completed 31 of 40 passes to keep himself squarely in the Heisman Trophy conversation, hitting Williams for a perfect strike for a 79-yarder in double coverage and flipping the ball to Christian Leary for another touchdown when he appeared set to run.
It was the second-most passing yards in SEC history, behind Mississippi State’s K.J. Costello, who threw for 623 yards against LSU last season.
Williams caught eight passes for 190 yards with touchdowns of 79, 32 and 40 yards.
“When you have a dynamic playmaker like that you just have to put the ball in the air and let him run under it,” Young said.
John Metchie also gained 173 yards on 10 catches with a touchdown. Alabama’s Brian Robinson ran for 122 yards on 27 carries.
The clincher was Young’s 40-yarder to Williams in the end zone on third and 10. It was reviewed to see if Williams had possession as he came down, and replay officials upheld the call to the relief of the Bryant-Denny stadium crowd.
That left Jefferson and Arkansas needing two scores in the final 5:39, but they could only deliver one.
Jefferson completed 22 of 30 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Much of that damage was done by Treylon Burks, whose eight catches went for 179 yards and a pair of scores.
“We felt like we had a great chance to win the game and obviously we did,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “We just didn’t get enough or didn’t get a stop. We certainly didn’t play a perfect game.”
It gave Alabama double-digit wins for the 14th consecutive season, matching Florida State’s FBS record set from 1987-2000.
Young shattered the school mark of 484 passing yards set by Scott Hunter against Auburn in 1969, surpassing it with 11 minutes to play.
Arkansas has come a long way since getting dominated in the last five meetings with Alabama by an average of 34.4 points. Jefferson delivered a big game but the defense had no answer for Young & Co. A fake field goal also went for a fourth-quarter touchdown.
“We matched the physicality of what Alabama’s known for,” Pittman said. “I just told (the players) the days of getting our teeth kicked in are over. I think we proved that at least for this week.”
Alabama continues to look more beatable than last year’s national championship team. Sure, the Tide racked up 671 yards but they also allowed 468. Alabama also lost a fumble at the goal line in the fourth and gave up a sack to move out of late field goal range.
Alabama would seem likely to hold firm at No. 2 in the AP poll and College Football Rankings. The Razorbacks are good bets to fall back out of the Top 25 after a one-week return.
FIELD GOAL FAKE
The Razorbacks pulled to within 34-28 early in the fourth quarter with a fake field goal. Holder Reid Bauer’s jump pass to tight end Blake Kern went for a 32-yard touchdown after two false start penalties appeared to stymie the drive.
“We were trying to cover the guy and we ran into the official,” Saban said. “They had run a fake field goal against LSU last week so we actually worked against it and called the defense we wanted to play against it.”
Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. had 11 tackles, a sack and two quarterback hurries. Anderson came in leading the nation in sacks and tackles for loss.
Arkansas: Closes the regular season Friday against Missouri.
Alabama: At in-state rival Auburn for the Iron Bowl.