Arkansas faces a tough team in the Texas A&M Aggies and a tough player in Johnny Manziel Saturday in Fayetteville. Despite the task at hand for the Razorbacks and the seemingly insurmountable path to a victory, Manziel and Co. have been stopped and can be stopped, but not on the road since joining the SEC.
Nobody claims it will be easy because it will not. But possible? Yeah. Easier said than done, but the question remains: How Do You Beat the Aggies and Johnny Manziel?
For what it’s worth, Texas A&M is 105th in rushing defense through four games and 110th in total defense. There are records for 123 teams in the FBS for games played through Saturday, Sept. 23, 2013. Arkansas’ defense is 17th overall, 13th against the rush and 45th in passing yards allowed.
On the flip side, Texas A&M is 5th in total offense. Arkansas is 70th.
Texas A&M lost two games in 2012, the season opener at home to Florida 20-17 and then again at home on Oct. 20, 2012, to LSU 24-19. Last year, the Aggies won two games by three points or less. They beat Ole Miss in Oxford 30-27 on Oct. 6, and turned around a week later and beat Louisiana Tech 59-57 in Shreveport.
A closer look at the box scores in those two losses last year and the two slim wins shows some interesting hints as to what it takes to beat the Aggies and Johnny Manziel.
In the Florida game, Manziel was 23/30 for 173 yards and another 60 yards rushing on 17 carries. Florida’s quarterback, Jeff Driskel was 13/16 with 162 yards total. Neither quarterback threw an interception or touchdown in that game. In fact, there were no turnovers in that game at all by either team.
Neither team had a rusher go for 100 yards. Florida’s top rusher that day was Mike Gillislee, with 83 yards; A&M’s Manziel was tops for 60.
The time of possession battle was won by Florida 35:07 to 24:53. The complete box score for that game is available here.
In the Aggies’ loss to LSU, the Aggies had five turnovers on the day, two fumbles, and Manziel threw three picks. The future Heisman Trophy winner also threw for 276 yards that day, completing 29 of 56 passes. The Aggies won time possession by a tiny 30:10 to 29:50 margin.
Rushing for the day featured LSU back Jeremy Hill with 127 yards on 18 carries. Ben Malena had 82 yards on 12 carries for Texas A&M. Manziel was the second-leading rusher with only 27 yards.
The defensive backs for LSU last year were very good, as they are again this year, but the final tally on offense for both teams in the game was Texas A&M – 410 and LSU – 316. Turnovers were the difference for the Tigers, and they still barely won the game.
An interesting stat in that game for the Razorbacks is the play of LSU’s quarterback Zach Mettenberger. He was 11/29 on the day with 97 yards. That’s it. The complete box score is here.
The close win, if there is such a thing, in Oxford, Miss. is full of interesting tidbits, statistically. The final score was 30-27, Aggies. Both teams had 24 first downs in the game. A&M had 481 yards of total offense. Ole Miss posted 464. Texas A&M lost four fumbles and Manziel threw two interceptions that night. Bo Wallace tossed two picks of his own.
Ole Miss had that game in hand, up by 10 points, 27-17 late into the 4th quarter. Manziel pulled off a 29 yard run with 6:24 to play and a 20-yard touchdown pass with 1:46 to go.
Wallace passed for 305 yards on the night. Manziel passed it for 191 (17-26). Rushing for Ole Miss featured Jeff Scott with 108 total yards on 21 carries. The Aggies had two rushers with more than 100 yards – Malena (142 on 18 carries) and Manziel (129 on 20 carries).
Ole Miss took chances. The Rebels were 2 of 3 for fourth-down attempts. It was the last and only missed fourth-down try that hurt the Rebels – a gamble that didn’t pay. On fourth and one from their own 39 yard line, Scott failed to get the yard needed, leading 27-17 with less than eight minutes to play in the game, the Aggies got the ball back with a short field.
In the end the Aggies took a game they probably should have lost. The complete game stats are here.
One week later Texas A&M played Louisiana Tech. What an ugly game. The Aggies won it 59-57 and no, there wasn’t much defense. The interesting note here is that Tech’s quarterback, Colby Cameron threw for 450 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Manziel threw for 395 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also was the Aggies’ rushing leader with 181 yards on 19 carries. In addition to the pick, Texas A&M fumbled it once, was penalized 19 times for 165 yards, had three times more third down conversions than Tech, held the ball for 32:13 and 10 fewer first downs than the Bulldogs.
Tech also took a few chances. They went for it fourth down five times, converting 2 of them. Complete stats for the game are here.
It wasn’t the lone SEC Texas team’s best showing. But they did get the win.
So what does this mean for Arkansas in its game Saturday? What are some of the keys to victory for the Razorbacks? Tell us yours. Here are ours.
- Control the clock with the run game
- Do not make mistakes (no penalties, no turnovers)
- Force mistakes from the Aggies (turnovers and penalties)
- Take gambles, but when you do, they better pay
- Hope Johnny Manziel and the Aggies have run out of luck