Five Keys Review
1. Johnny Sideline — Not Accomplished
Arkansas had to control the clock in hopes of limited Texas A&M’s offensive possessions and five of the Razorbacks’ six scoring drives spanned seven plays or longer. But those successful drives still couldn’t keep Manziel and the Aggies off the field the majority of the game. Texas A&M scored points on 7 of its 11 possessions and won the time of possession battle (31:43 to 28:17). It was the first time this season an opponent had the ball longer than the Razorbacks.
2. Passing Game Success — Accomplished
Brandon Allen’s return from a shoulder injury made Arkansas much more dangerous through the air than the previous two games. He threw three touchdown passes – two to Jonathan Williams, one to Keon Hatcher — and had four completions of 20 yards or more. It included a season-high 52-yard pass to tight end Hunter Henry. Arkansas finished with a season-high 282 passing yards.
3. Win Up Front — Somewhat Accomplished
Arkansas shook up its offensive front, plugging freshmen Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland into the lineup at the guard spots. Brey Cook didn’t start, but earned several quality snaps backing up Grady Ollison at right tackle. The Razorbacks did not allow a sack, which was important considering Allen was coming off a shoulder injury. Defensively, Arkansas’ front understandably struggled to corral Johnny Manziel. The biggest disappointment, though, was the fact the Razorbacks were surprisingly gashed again and again by a rushing offense that piled up 262 yards.
4. No Careless Penalties — Accomplished
Arkansas put a premium on eliminating the careless mistakes that proved costly at Rutgers and the results were pretty impressive Saturday. The Razorbacks only had one penalty and it was a false start flag thrown in the fourth quarter. The biggest improvement came from a defense that committed three personal fouls in the Rutgers loss and seven in the first four games. The unit was not penalized Saturday.
5. Don’t Dig A Hole — Not Accomplished
Arkansas gave up an early touchdown to fall behind 7-0 and never led in the 45-33 loss. But Texas A&M’s opening-possession score wasn’t the biggest issue. The Aggies have done it to nearly everyone under coach Kevin Sumlin. The problems came in the next few possessions, when the Razorbacks fell behind 24-10. Arkansas crawled back at the end of the half and had opportunities to take the lead after the break, but couldn’t capitalize. Instead, Texas A&M found ways to protect its lead all night.
• Defensive coordinator Chris Ash on his group’s struggles against the Aggies:
“If they got a lot of yards and we played to our potential, then I would accept that. But we didn’t play to our potential. We made a lot of mistakes. Arkansas beat Arkansas Saturday night. I’m not taking anything away from A&M. A&M’s a great team, Manziel’s a great quarterback. They’ve got a lot of weapons and they executed. We just didn’t’ play the way I was expecting us to play Saturday night. And that’s disappointing.”
• Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on Brandon Allen’s performance in first game back from shoulder injury:
“I thought he played OK. I think the rust showed up in a few of his decisions on where he went with the ball, not being able to get ample amounts of reps on some plays. And quite honestly I called a few plays that probably I shouldn’t have because he hadn’t had a lot of reps at it. It showed up with the details of his technical side of his game. If I had to do it back, I’d rewind a few of those calls, no question, to help him on those. But I didn’t, so that’s. I don’t have a lot of time to think about it.”
• Running backs coach Joel Thomas on Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams a week after struggling at Rutgers:
“They got challenged last Sunday at this time that there’s a certain level that we need to play at every single week and they took it to another level. I thought they really played hard and did some nice things. … It was nice to see that effort.”
Players of the Game
Offense – RB Jonathan Williams (53 rushing yards, 67 receiving, 2 TDs)
Williams may not have put up a 100-yard rushing night like Alex Collins, but was impressive in his own right as an all-purpose back. He ran hard all night, carrying defenders for extra yards on rushing plays and breaking tackles in open space as a receiver. His second 19-yard TD catch was the big highlight, showing strength and determination Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney described as infectious.
Defense – S Alan Turner (12 tackles, pass break up)
Turner wasn’t flawless with two big coverage busts on Texas A&M’s first drive. But defensive coordinator Chris Ash said he settled in and played well on a night the Arkansas defense struggled to stop the Aggies. Turner finished with a career-high 12 tackles — including 9 solo stops — for a defense that surrendered 523 yards.
Special Teams – KR Korliss Marshall (3 kick returns, 74 yards)
The Razorbacks finally took the redshirt off Marshall and the freshman produced an early highlight on special teams. He bounced away from a big hit to put together a 38-yard return the first time he touched the ball. Marshall finished averaging 24.7 yards on three kick returns, showing plenty of promise for the rest of the season.
0 — Snaps played by middle linebacker Austin Jones. The senior started Arkansas’ first four games, but never saw the field Saturday. Defensive coordinator Chris Ash said Texas A&M’s spread offense played a factor in the decision to sit Jones and also added the linebacker was slowed some by a hip injury suffered at Rutgers. Jarrett Lake and Braylon Mitchell started the game in Arkansas’ nickel defense.
3 — Number of true freshmen starting on offense Saturday night (left guard Dan Skipper, right guard Denver Kirkland and tight end Hunter Henry). Skipper and Kirkland replaced Mitch Smothers and Brey Cook, respectively, in the lineup to earn the first starts of their careers. Henry also picked up his first start when the Razorbacks opened the game in a formation that included three tight ends.
4 — Number of 100-yard rushing performances in five games for Arkansas running back Alex Collins. The freshman ran for a game-high 116 yards on 14 carries against the Aggies. The Arkansas freshman record for 100-yard rushing games is five, which former Razorback Darren McFadden accomplished in 2005.
262 — Texas A&M’s rushing yards Saturday night. It was the most allowed by the Razorbacks since the 2011 season, when LSU ran for 286 yards in the 41-17 win in the BCS No. 1 vs. No. 3 matchup in Baton Rouge, La. Arkansas entered the Texas A&M game ranked 13th in the NCAA in rushing defense, allowing 92.5 yards a game.
Arkansas got its biggest injury news before kickoff when quarterback Brandon Allen returned from a shoulder injury after missing the Rutgers game. Allen sparked the offense, too, leading the Razorbacks to a 483-yard performance in the loss.
The Razorbacks appear to have made it through the game without any serious injuries. The biggest concern is cornerback Tevin Mitchel, who left after what appeared to be a head injury. Bielema said Mitchel’s injury was “not bad.”
The Razorbacks also played without reserve tailback Nate Holmes, who was not dressed out after suffering an ankle injury last week. Holmes’ absence paved the way for Marshall, who gained 16 yards on his only rushing attempt Saturday.
Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 in SEC) continues its difficult four-game stretch, traveling to Florida to play the 18th-ranked Gators (3-1, 2-0 in SEC) on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN2.
The Razorbacks haven’t experienced much success against Florida, going 1-8 all-time with eight straight losses. It includes an 0-3 mark in Gainesville, Fla. Arkansas came close to upsetting then-No. 1 Florida during a controversial 23-20 loss in 2008. The SEC suspended the officiating crew after the game. Commissioner Mike Slive said the suspension stemmed from a “series of calls that have occurred during the last several weeks” that were not to the “standard that we expect.”
Florida will play without a handful of key players Saturday. Quarterback Jeff Driskel is out for the season after suffering a broken fibula against Tennessee. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley also is done for the year after a knee injury in practice last week. But the two key losses haven’t stopped the Gators from grinding their way to SEC wins against Tennessee (31-17) and Kentucky (24-7) the past two weeks.
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau