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'Bama wins in 'Nick' of time

September 16, 2007|From the Associated Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama summoned up one huge defensive stand, a last-minute drive led by John Parker Wilson and Matt Caddell and a final, game-winning pass into the end zone.

Welcome to the Nick Saban era, 'Bama fans.

Caddell caught a four-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone from Wilson with eight seconds left, lifting the Crimson Tide to a 41-38 victory over No. 16 Arkansas on Saturday night.

"It was an exciting night, huh?" Saban said.

Certainly for Alabama. The Crimson Tide, 3-0 overall, 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference, survived a relentless onslaught from Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden and made a sideline decision that worked perfectly.

After twice blowing 21-point leads, Alabama marched down the field from its 27 over the final 2:13, mostly on the Wilson-to-Caddell connection.

Wilson connected with Caddell across the middle for a 19-yard completion and two nine-yarders to move the ball across midfield. Kevin Woods and Matterral Richardson were each whistled for pass interference, Richardson on a third-and-nine play, to set Alabama up with a first down at the 13.

After Wilson passed to Keith Brown for a nine-yard gain, he found a leaping Caddell in the left side of the end zone two plays later, sending the crowd into a frenzy and prompting a celebratory pileup on the receiver.

"I knew if I got it up there and gave him a chance, he'd make a play," said Wilson, who was seven for eight for 56 yards on the final drive. "I got the ball outside and gave Matt a chance to make the play, and he did."

The Crimson Tide's decision to settle for Leigh Tiffin's 42-yard field goal to make it 38-34 paid off when Arkansas was stopped on its next possession. McFadden sat out the series because of a slight concussion, Coach Houston Nutt said.

"I did have confidence that we could stop them," Saban said. "I asked the players on the sidelines, 'Can we stop them?' They said they could, so I believed them. And they did."

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