What former Arkansas football players remember from 2006 victory over Alabama

Christina Long
Fort Smith Times Record

The last time Arkansas beat Alabama was Sept. 23, 2006. Gus Malzahn was the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator. Nick Saban was still the coach of the Miami Dolphins. The No. 1 song in the U.S. was Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack." 

It's been 15 years, but Ben Cleveland can still describe in detail his game-tying touchdown catch in the second overtime in that 2006 win.

He was a freshman tight end playing his fourth game. Alabama had just scored but missed the extra point, making it 23-17. Arkansas just needed a touchdown and a PAT to beat the No. 22 Crimson Tide in Fayetteville.

Arkansas place kicker Jeremy Davis (50) celebrates with holder Jacob Skinner as Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs runs to the two after Davis' extra point put Arkansas up by one point over Alabama in overtime, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2006, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas defeated Alabama 24-23 in two overtimes. (AP Photo/Beth Hall)

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It was a play Cleveland had already run earlier in the game. He remembers running a stop route, where he was supposed to stop on a dime, turn, and make a catch, but converting it to a go route, where he would run straight and look for the ball in the end zone. When he did, an Alabama safety came over, and Cleveland was suddenly in double-coverage as quarterback Mitch Mustain launched the ball.

"(The safety) had my hand, and I caught it with one hand," Cleveland said this week. "And that was history. That's probably about the loudest stadium I've ever heard."

Kicker Jeremy Davis came on to attempt the extra point. He doesn't remember being too nervous. After all, he couldn't lose the game; it would either stay tied or he'd win it.

Davis lined up and made the kick, and Arkansas had the 24-23 win. He remembers being lifted up and carried around the field. And after that?

"Honestly, I did not sleep that night," Cleveland said. "It was just a big, big, big victory for us as a team."

Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain, right, hands off to tailback Darren McFadden during the first quarter of the college football game with Alabama Saturday, Sept. 23, 2006, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas defeated Alabama 24-23 in two overtimes. (AP Photo/Beth Hall)

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Cleveland remembers a lot of things from his playing days: an away game in South Carolina when the bus driver ran over the median, a plane stopping in the middle of the runway while the team flew to a road trip. He still lives in Northwest Arkansas, and he and his family, including four children ages 12, 9 , 2 and 1, have season tickets to Arkansas football. He said there are things he wishes he didn't remember, but there are also stories he'll tell his kids. 

Davis, now the girls volleyball coach at Ramsey Junior High School in Fort Smith, has showed his 5- and 10-year-old sons the video of his game-winner. There's one blemish, though, courtesy of the broadcasters on the call.

"Every time they queue it up," he said, "It says, 'Jeremy Davis has missed one already today.'"

Cleveland has seen his fair share of coaches, having played for the Razorbacks from 2006-10 under both Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino. Now, as both fan and former player, he appreciates what coach Sam Pittman is doing with the program.

"He reminds me a lot of Coach Nutt," Cleveland said of Pittman. "The guys play hard for him. They'll go through a brick wall. That was how Nutt was."

No. 22 Arkansas (7-3, 3-3 SEC) will travel to Tuscaloosa and try to take down No. 2 Alabama (9-1, 5-1) on Saturday (2:30 p.m., CBS) for the first time since that Cleveland catch and Davis kick. The 2021 Razorbacks wear uniforms inspired by those glory days of the mid-2000s, when Cleveland and Davis played alongside running back Darren McFadden.

So, is this the year the streak ends? Davis isn't certain, but he knows what he wants to happen.

"I hope with everything that I have that Arkansas is able to snap that streak this week."

Christina Long covers the Arkansas Razorbacks. You can email her at clong@swtimes.com or follow her on Twitter @christinalong00.