Alabama beats Arkansas, sets up SEC title game against Georgia

AP photo by Vasha Hunt / Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams runs past Arkansas defensive back Simeon Blair to score a touchdown during the first half of Saturday's game in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Bryce Young passed for more yards than any University of Alabama quarterback ever had in a single 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, 6-1) won their 15th consecutive series meeting with 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 Auburn next weekend for the annual Iron Bowl rivalry game. Georgia (11-0) finished a 9-0 run through its league schedule last weekend at Tennessee, and the Bulldogs locked up the SEC East Division crown weeks ago.

"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 an Arkansas onside kick went out of bounds with 1:02 left. The Razorbacks had stayed alive with K.J. Jefferson's 17-yard touchdown pass to Raheim Sanders, but Arkansas took nearly five minutes to get there.

photo AP photo by Vasha Hunt / Alabama quarterback Bryce Young set a program record by passing for 559 yards in Saturday's home win against Arkansas.

Young was 31-of-40 passing to keep himself squarely in the Heisman Trophy conversation, hitting Williams with 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. Young shattered the school mark of 484 passing yards set by Scott Hunter against Auburn in 1969, surpassing it with 11 minutes to play.

Williams caught eight passes for 190 yards, with touchdowns of 79, 32 and 40 yards.

Said Young: "When you have a dynamic playmaker like that, you just have to put the ball in the air and let him run under it."

John Metchie added 173 yards on 10 catches, including a touchdown, and Brian Robinson rushed 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, but 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 deliver only one.

Jefferson was 22-of-30 for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Much of that damage was done by Treylon Burks, whose eight catches went for 179 yards and two 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 Football Bowl Subdivision record set from 1987 to 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 past 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.

"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."

The Razorbacks' fake field-goal attempt went for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Holder Reid Bauer's jump pass to tight end Blake Kern went for a 32-yard score - after two false starts appeared to stymie the drive - and pulled the visitors within 34-28.

"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. He came in leading the nation in sacks and tackles for loss.

The Tide continue to look more beatable than last year's national championship team. Sure, Alabama racked up 671 yards, but its defense also allowed 468. The Tide also lost a fumble at the goal line in the fourth quarter and gave up a sack to move out of field-goal range late in the game.