ARLINGTON, Texas — Arkansas suffered its first loss of the season Saturday night inside AT&T Stadium, losing 45-24 to No. 10 Texas A&M.
If you only looked at the final score, you’d have no idea how close this thing actually was near the end of the third quarter, or how in-control Arkansas seemed until the wheels fell off in the fourth.
This is the fifth straight season in which Arkansas has lost to the Aggies. And now, any Razorback dreams of unseating Alabama as the SEC West champion seem pretty far-fetched.
Much more coverage of the Hogs loss is coming to SEC Country throughout the day Sunday, but for now, here is a metaphorical emptying of my notebook from Saturday night’s game.
- Offense: QB Austin Allen, RB Rawleigh Williams III, FB Hayden Johnson, WR Keon Hatcher, WR Drew Morgan, TE Jeremy Sprinkle, LT Dan Skipper, LG Hjalte Froholdt, C Frank Ragnow, RG Jake Raulerson, RT Brian Wallace.
- Defense: DE Tevin Beanum, DT Taiwan Johnson, DT Jeremiah Ledbetter, DE Deatrich Wise Jr., LB Brooks Ellis, LB Dre Greenlaw, CB Jared Collins, FS Josh Liddell, SS Santos Ramirez, NB Henre’ Toliver, CB Ryan Pulley.
Stat that stood out
Arkansas allowed a staggering 366 rushing yards to Texas A&M. It was the first time Arkansas allowed more than 300 rushing yards to an opponent since a 45-21 loss to Auburn on Aug. 30, 2014, when the Hogs allowed 302 yards.
The 366 rushing yards allowed are the most Arkansas has allowed since the Hogs’ 52-0 loss to Alabama on Oct. 19, 2013, in Bret Bielema’s first season. The Crimson Tide rushed for 352 yards in that win.
Quote of the day
- Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, on Austin Allen’s status after the beating he took: “I think he’s OK. Sore. He’ll be real sore tomorrow. He’s a tough guy, obviously. I think our guys know that. I appreciate that about him. But at some point, obviously, any hit like that can take care of him for the season as well.”
- Freshman defensive tackle Austin Capps — who had been a second-teamer through three weeks — didn’t make the trip after he, according to Bielema, suffered a “pretty big contusion on his eye” in a scooter accident last week. Junior Bijhon Jackson played in his place.
- Senior receiver Keon Hatcher tweaked his hamstring and didn’t play much in the fourth quarter. It is unclear when that happened, although it could have been on the failed fourth-down reverse that ended up being the play that changed the game.
Other random thoughts and observations
- For the third straight season, Arkansas was in good shape late in the third quarter against Texas A&M. This time, though, once the Aggies gained momentum, the Hogs couldn’t get it back, and it snowballed. This Texas A&M win — obviously — didn’t require overtime.
- I wrote about this in my instant analysis, but Arkansas’ offensive line was pretty dreadful against the Aggies defensive front. Here’s the sad thing about that: Arkansas has a good — and potentially great — quarterback in Austin Allen. The Hogs have three solid running backs in Rawleigh Williams III, Kody Walker and Devwah Whaley, a star tight end in Jeremy Sprinkle and three good receivers in Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan and Jared Cornelius. With even a decent offensive line, imagine how terrific this offense could be.
- Austin Allen is a tough son of a gun. He was battered, beaten and bruised on Saturday and kept getting back up. He refused to unload on his offensive line after the game, saying, “There’s still some young guys up there on the offensive line. It’s the first SEC game. They’re going to get better. I have full faith in them.”
- I’m a little stunned that Allen was only actually “sacked” once, considering how many big blows that guy took. I thought he might not return to the game after his bruised chest in the first quarter. Backup Ty Storey was warming up, and Allen looked like he was in severe pain, but the starter never missed a snap.
- So, so many missed opportunities for Arkansas in the first half. There was the time Arkansas ran seven plays inside of Texas A&M’s 10-yard line and came away with only a field goal. There was Williams’ fumble as he was heading into the end zone with 8:01 until halftime. You could easily make the case that Arkansas could have taken a double-digit lead in the second quarter, but the Hogs never did.
- De’Andre Coley’s late hit/targeting gave the Aggies a fresh set of downs, potentially halting some Arkansas momentum. Coley’s blunder came after a third-down incompletion. We can debate all day whether Coley’s hit constituted “targeting,” but it most certainly was a late hit.
- The fourth-down call — you know the one — was extraordinarily telling. It showed us beyond a reasonable doubt that Bielema and/or offensive coordinator Dan Enos have very little faith in their offensive line to create enough space for a less-than 1-yard run up the middle. That is simply unbelievable considering the style of football Arkansas is known for.
- On third down, Allen tried to sneak it in and didn’t make it. Officials reviewed it and on the press box televisions, it sure looked like he might have scored. The crowd also seemed to think Allen was in the end zone, but the ruling on the field stood.
- With the first question in Bielema’s postgame news conference, I asked him about the fourth-down play call, and this is what he said: “Well, first, the play before we had the ball, obviously inside about the 2-yard line, we went with the quarterback sneak twice in a row. Not really sneak, just trying to wedge it forward. And it went to review and didn’t get in there. I think we had to clearly decide we had to get the ball in the end zone. We weren’t going to get the push up there that we needed on that play.”
- One question that didn’t get asked in the postgame — but that someone will inevitably ask Monday — is why senior DJ Dean was in the game instead of Ryan Pulley on the 92-yard Trevor Knight to Josh Reynolds touchdown pass.
- I was a little surprised that Bielema characterized his players as having quit after things went south in the fourth quarter. That is in direct contrast to the resolve we saw only two weeks ago in a stadium 20 miles west of AT&T Stadium. When things went bad and it looked like Arkansas was going to lose to TCU, they gutted out an impressive overtime victory.
- I asked both Bielema and defensive coordinator Robb Smith several days ago about their plans to corral mobile A&M quarterback Trevor Knight. The scheme didn’t work because Knight rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns. The two scores were from 42 and 48 yards and came on quarterback draws.
- Once again, Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw were forced to play the entire game at linebacker. The offensive line is the biggest problem, but the lack of quality reserve linebackers is clearly No. 2 on the list of issues this team must address moving forward.