HOGS: Anguish in Arlington
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Southwest Classic continues to be a form of kryptonite for the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium.
Texas A&M benefited from a 13-point swing late in the second quarter and then watched as Cam Little's go-ahead field-goal attempt with 1:30 to play hit the top of the right goal post and bounced back on the field.
The Aggies ran out of the clock on a 23-21 victory in front of an announced crowd of 63,580, handing the 10th-ranked Razorbacks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) their first defeat, another disheartening one in a series in which A&M has won 10 of the past 11 games.
“You have to give A&M all the credit in the world,” Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said. “Being able to fight back from 14 down. They had a couple of big plays in there and certainly the big fumble recovery. But our kids fought back in the fourth quarter with a chance to win there at the end. Unfortunately, we didn’t.”
Arkansas punted on its first possession, but the Razorbacks took off to a 14-0 first-quarter lead as KJ Jefferson threw touchdown passes on back-to-back possessions. The first was a 32-yard screen pass to sophomore wide receiver Ketron Jackson Jr. followed up by toss to a wide-open Warren Thompson, who scored from 56 yards.
It was 14-0 Arkansas with 5:25 to play in the first quarter, but it was the final points the Hogs would score until early in the fourth quarter.
“We did everything you could possibly do to give them a head start,” A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher said of the Aggies, who were outgained 170-28 in the first quarter.
The Aggies (3-1, 1-0) got back into the game on Max Johnson's 10-yard touchdown pass to Evan Stewart, which completed a 72-yard drive with 8:45 to play before halftime to make it 14-7.
The Hogs answered by driving 72 yards and sat first-and-goal at the 3 with less than four minutes to play before halftime when the game's only turnover occurred, a game-turning play the Hogs were unable to fully overcome.
Jefferson (12-19 passing, 171 yards, 2 TDs; 18-105 rushing, 1 TD) attempted a leap from the 3, but the ball was jarred loose by linebacker Chris Russell (10 tackles, 6 unassisted). Defensive back Tyreek Chapman came up with it and sprinted toward the A&M sideline at the 18, where he appeared to be cornered by Arkansas running back Raheim Sanders.
That's when Chapman's A&M teammate Demani Richardson came up from behind and snatched the ball from Chapman. Richardson ran untouched the final 82 yards.
That made it 14-13 Hogs after the extra-point conversion was misplayed 3:11 to play in the half.
“The defense made a great play on the ball,” Jefferson said of the game's only turnover. “I got to be able to finish the play when we get to the goal line.”
Arkansas outgained A&M 271-152 in the first half, held the ball for 18:21 to 11:39, but led by 1 point with the Aggies set to get the second-half kickoff.
The Aggies took over the third quarter, outscoring the Razorbacks 10-0 with a 9-yard touchdown run from Devon Achane (10-159 rushing, 1 TD; 3-15 receiving) at the 11:41 mark to give the Aggies a 20-14 lead.
A&M outgained Arkansas 153-21, held the ball for 11:40 of the quarter's 15 minutes, and added a 31-yard field goal by Randy Bond to make it 23-14 Aggies.
The Razorbacks dominated the fourth quarter much as they did the first, using a 13-play, 74-yard drive (4:49 possession time), culminating in a 6-yard touchdown run from Jefferson.
Arkansas got the ball back with 6:30 to go after Bond missed a 53-yard attempt.
The Razorbacks had second down at the Aggies 16 when senior center's Ricky Stromberg's errant snap was covered by Sanders for a 9-yard loss.
Jefferson scrambled for 1 yard on third down, and Pittman let the clock run down to 1:30 before calling timeout to set up Cam Little's 42-yard attempt.
Little's kick was not struck true, and it bounced off the top of the right goal post and back onto the field.
“Cam has won a whole lot of games for us,” linebacker Bumper Pool said. “I’ve never seen that kind of bounce before. But we’re going to love him up and move on from this.”
Pittman said Little pushed the kick.
"After the game, I told him that he's won a lot of games for us and he'll win a lot more," Pittman said. "I know he's distraught, but he didn't mean to miss it. It just didn't go through."
The Razorbacks rushed for 244 yards and outgained the Aggies 415-343 overall. Sanders (17-68 rushing) was held to his lowest total of the season. AJ Green (9 carries, 36 yards), Rashod Dubinion (2 carries, 17 yards), and a returning Dominque Johnson (5 carries, 32 yards) contributed to the run game.
Jadon Haselwood (5 catches, 57 yards) and Thompson (2 catches, 57 yards, 1 TD) were the only Razorbacks receivers to catch two or more passes in the game. Jackson Jr.'s touchdown catch in the first quarter was his only one. Matt Landers (19 yards) and tight end Trey Knox (8 yards) each had one catch as well.
The Razorbacks defense stopped the Aggies on their first four possessions, but A&M totaled 16 first downs and 325 yards over the final three quarters.
Bumper Pool (7 tackles) led the defense in stops, while defensive backs Myles Slusher (returning from injury) and Jayden Johnson each had 6 tackles. The defense sacked A&M quarterback Max Johnson four times, but Johnson (11-21 passing, 151 yards, 1 TD; 13-39 rushing) made several key plays to keep Aggies drives alive, but it was Achane who provided most of the production.
“Achane had a great game,” Arkansas safety Simeon Blair said. “He was able to get them rolling on offense and the momentum started to shift because of him.”
The Razorbacks will shift their focus to the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0,1-0). Alabama, with Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young passing for 385 and 4 TDs, beat Vanderbilt 55-3 on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.
The Arkansas-Alabama game will be held at Reynolds Razorback Stadium with a kickoff scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
“I think we’ll bounce back,” Pittman said. “They know Alabama has a really good team and the place will be sold out and rocking next Saturday. A lot of people have spent their hard-earned money to watch us play so we’ll be ready to play.”
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