Two-Minute Drill: Aggies Trip Up Razorbacks in OT, 35-28


Razorback head coach Bret Bielema preaches to his players about having a “clean game,” but the Hogs made enough mental and physical mistakes at the wrong times to lose a two-touchdown lead in regulation and then fall in overtime to No. 6-ranked Texas A&M 35-28. One player doesn’t win it or lose it, but no question some onus is on sophomore left tackle Dan Skipper, who was flagged twice for major penalties that wiped out either a Razorback touchdown in the first half or a long run to the A&M 2 early in the fourth quarter, or Arkansas coasts to a victory at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Clearly Arkansas outplayed the Aggies for most of the game, but ultimately A&M was able to score on a pair of two-play possessions in the fourth quarter to tie the game with 2:08 t0 play, and a one-play possession in the overtime. Arkansas’ Alex Collins was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the A&M 16 on the Razorbacks’ possession, and that was the game.

If you’re looking for a key momentum play in the game, look no further than a fumbled center exchange between quarterback Brandon Allen and freshman center Frank Ragnow, which Allen recovered but which stopped the gashing running game the Hogs were displaying again in trying to run out the last six minutes of the game (it came with 3:28 left and A&M starting to use its two remaining timeouts). Behind Jonathan Williams’ two runs of 12 and 17 yards and Alex Collins’ 17-yard blast, the Hogs had moved from their own 23 to the A&M 31 before the botch. Arkansas gained just 6 more yards on the next two snaps, bringing on a field goal try that failed. In the first quarter, Allen and Mitch Smothers had a missed connection that Allen was unable to recover, after the Hogs had tied the game at 7 and were at the A&M 41, again slicing through the Aggies with the running game.

One concern coming in (noted on this site several times) was the Hogs senior John Henson’s  inability to make more than a 22-yard field goal in his career as placekicker. Sure enough, the game came down to Henson in position to ice the game for Arkansas with 2:38 to play, but he was well wide left with a 44-yard attempt and the ball went back over to A&M for one more chance to tie the contest and 2:29 left. A&M had its own field goal troubles. Josh Lambo missed from 23 yards in the first half, and Texas A&M wasn’t even willing to try a 38-yarder in the third quarter when it faced fourth-and-a-long-1 from the Hogs’ 21. A&M’s gamble failed when UA safety Alan Turner played a pass at the sideline perfectly.

Most observers believed going in that Arkansas could score more than 21 points on the Aggies and their suspect defense, but that proved not to bethe case. Of course, two plays that would have put points on the board or set up a short carry were nullified by the penalties on tackle Dan Skipper. In the first half, Arkansas used a fake reverse to Keon Hatcher to set up a beautiful play for tight end Hunter Henry, with no one in the same zip code defending, but Skipper had bear-hugged an A&M rusher on the throw, and the play came back. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Jonathan Williams made a run for the ages, breaking several tackle attempts and carrying 56 yards before finally losing his footing at the A&M 2. This one came back as well because Skipper was detected to have tripped an Aggie end on the back side of the play. Replays showed that Skipper slightly raised his leg after he went tumbling to the turf blocking, but the official on that side gave him no break and threw flag. So, instead of a 35-14 lead (or potentially 42-14 with Henry’s nullified TD), Arkansas was way behind the sticks and had to punt. A&M scored in two plays after the punt to close to within seven, 28-21.

Arkansas’ defense played way over its heads Saturday, compared to what we’d seen at Auburn, with an extremely physical and aggressive approach that had A&M reeling as the game moved into the fourth quarter. However, A&M found its big-play offense in time, scoring on drives of 88 and 73 yards with just two plays on each possession. Edward Pope and Jared Collins appeared to bump and Collins lost his balance deep down field near the left hashmark, and Kenny Hill delivered a perfect ball that Pope brought in at the UA 30, and he finished off an 86-yard play. With no time for error late, Josh Reynolds turned a short toss near the right sideline into a 59-yard scoring play, and Lambo’s PAT tied the game. A&M’s first score of the game came on a four-play drive of 49 yards after Trey Williams had returned the opening kickoff 51 yards. Then, to cap it all, with A&M getting the ball first in overtime, tight end Malcolm Kennedy made a move to get separation from UA linebacker Brooks Ellis, there was no safety protecting behind the linebackers on the play, and Kennedy had an easy 25-yard score.

Bret Bielema is now 0-2 in overtime games at Arkansas, both against SEC competition. And both overtimes were very similar to each other (and, for that matter, both opponents wear maroon and white ). Also, and this is usually a good thing, Arkansas each time has won the toss to determine who has the first series, and the toss winner typically picks defense. Last year in Little Rock, Mississippi State scored on one play, a quarterback keeper for 25 yards, and then the Bulldogs held off the Hogs on their possession for a 24-17 win. Arkansas could not finish that game in the red zone and ended up losing, plus dropping the season finale in the final minute to LSU to finish 0-8 in conference play for the first time ever. Saturday at AT&T Stadium, the Hogs gave up the quick score on Malcome Kennedy’s reception, then couldn’t answer. Jonathan Williams carried twice for short yardage, and Brandon Allen found A.J. Derby on a short toss to the A&M 16 to set up a fourth-and-1 play. The Hogs went for a called run for Alex Collins on the right side, but Collins was stacked up by defensive end Julien Obioha and cornerback Deshazor Everett.

Arkansas’ defense held Texas A&M to 194 yards in the first half, keeping both the Aggies’ passing and running games below 100 yards. But the huge scoring plays in the fourth quarter were part of a turnaround for A&M’s offense in terms of yardage, as the Aggies piled up 329 second-half yards. Kenny Hill passed for 386 yards on 21 of 41 passing with one interception, by Hog cornerback Carroll Washington on a deep throw in the fourth quarter. Of course, two passes accounted for 145 of those yards. The Aggies still ran for just 137 yards for the game, with Tra Carson leading the Aggies with 59 yards on eight carries. Arkansas, surprisingly, ran more plays (74 to 68) to A&M’s wide-open offense, and the Hogs held a 14-minute edge (37 minutes to 23) in time of possession. Arkansas had 291 yards at halftime and added 193  yards in the second half (a flip of sorts from the first half, just as it was for A&M). Alex Collins, who had a stunning 50-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter, completely faking out A&M safety Armani Watts once he broke into the clear, led all rushers with 131 yards on 21 carries. But Arkansas, except for two drives, seemed bogged down with its running game in the last two quarters, although Texas A&M defensively had played mostly Cover 1  and kept 10 men near the line. Obviously something changed up front from the first half, as Arkansas appeared to run into a wall on first and second downs against an Aggie defense that was selling out. Arkansas did top 200 yards rushing for the fourth straight game, the first time the program has seen that since 2007 (with Darren McFadden; Felix Jones, who was on hand Saturday; and Peyton Hillis).

Jonathan Williams had 94 yards on 16 carries and scored in the first quarter on a  9-yard run, breaking two tackles.

A&M’s defensive run gambles did leave it susceptible to the play-action fake. Brandon Allen was a magician on a fake-handoff to Alex Collins on a third-and-1 play and found tight end A.J. Derby all alone for a 44-yard score in the third quarter to stretch the UA lead to two scores, 28-14.

Last season, Bret Bielema called four fake punts, with two working (once at Rutgers and once at Alabama, both losses). But nobody in the house (68,113 announced attendance, a good portion of those Aggie fans) saw what was coming late in the first half when Arkansas’ two-minute offense faltered near midfield. No one was left on A&M’s right side of its punt return team when Arkansas punter Sam Irwin-Hill took off toward the A&M sideline (his left) and had a wall of blockers, led by Brooks Ellis and Alex Voelzke, leading him down the field. Irwin-Hill almost didn’t score, running into his escorts and slowing up. But he managed to keep his balance for the final 10 yards and fell into the end zone to put Arkansas back up a touchdown, 21-14, with 1:03 left in the half.

Arkansas has now lost 14 straight SEC games, dating back to the last win, a 49-7 blasting in only three quarters (weather halted the game) against Kentucky in 2012. Brandon Allen as a starting quarter is 0-11 in SEC games. Bret Bielema is 0-10 in the SEC as head coach. The Hogs have dropped three straight to A&M, and this marked the first loss for Arkansas at AT&T Stadium after three wins over the Aggies (2009-2011) and a Cotton Bowl victory over Kansas State in the 2011 season. Arkansas’ series edge over the Aggies is now 41-27.

“I think the good news about today is, I’m giving all the credit to A&M. They did it. But a lot of things that caused us to lose this game today came from within our own locker room. Not getting down on my guys. You know, a certain part of our process to get to where we need to be. I think we made a lot of positive steps forward. But we talk all the time, our third edge we talk about is playing clean, and that means playing penalty free. Don’t put youself in a position to beat yourself by what you’re doing. And we can’t win with eight penalties, I know that. But the good news is we can correct those things, and I thought our guys did several things throughout the course of the game to get excited about, but obviously not enough to close it.” — UA coach Bret Bielema

“I didn’t come to Dallas to take positive step, I came to win.” — Bret Bielema

“What a heck of a game … I’m extremely proud of the effort of our older guys. I think a lot of our … we get categorized as a young football team with a quarterback that’s young, but our older guys led us. They were in and out of a real football game, a physical game.” — A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.

Arkansas (3-2) can deal with its heartbreak over the loss with a week off before taking on Alabama in Fayetteville on Oct. 11.

aggies trip up arkansas


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