No. 8 A&M handles Hogs 42-31
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas forced a punt Saturday night on Texas A&M’s game-opening possession. The Razorbacks wouldn’t force another punt until 9:47 remained in the game.
By then Coach Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies’ six touchdowns on six consecutive possessions would suffice for a 25-point lead and eventual 42-31 victory at A&M’s Kyle Field.
The Barry Odom coordinated defense for first-year Coach Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks, now 2-3 going into next week’s game against visiting Tennessee, drew rave reviews for Arkansas’ first four games.
But not this Saturday night. Arkansas couldn’t withstand the 4-1 Aggies as a combination of senior A&M quarterback Kellen Mond, beating Arkansas for his four games in the Aggies, ninth consecutive SEC West over Arkansas since A&M joined the SEC in 2012, running backs Isaiah Spiller, Ainias Smith, Devon Achane, tight end Jalen Wydermyer and a powerful Aggies offensive line dominated Arkansas’ defense.
Arkansas had doted on a national leading 10 interceptions plus three fumble recoveries its first four games but never netted a turnover against A&M.
Also Mond never got sacked while completing 21 of 26 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns and netting 32 yards on 6 carries directing six straight time consuming touchdown drives.
Spiller, 21 carries for 82 yards with a touchdown, Smith, 3 carries for 31 yards and a touchdown and 6 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, Achane, a 30-yard touchdown, and Wydermyer, 6-5, 265 and dragging Razorbacks defenders along for yards eventually totaling 92 and two touchdowns on 6 catches, kept the Aggies on the field, especially on third down with A&M converting 7 of 11 continuing their drives.
His Hogs certainly could and have defensively played much better but take nothing away from the Aggies offensive prowess, Pittman surmised.
“"We couldn't get off the field on defense,” Pittman said. “We knew they had a very powerful offensive line and a good quarterback. We couldn't get to him. Obviously, we didn't sack him. They converted almost every third down until the last two or three drives of the game, so, it was just hard to get them off the field.”
Especially with Mond mobile on the run, accurate of arm and not pressured.
“His receivers were getting open and Mond got it to them,” Pittman said. “And so any time you have a threat where you can turn around and hand the ball to Spiller and you’ve got a big physical O-line. They caught the ball well and blocked well and basically did whatever they wanted to a lot of the time on third downs. The guy that hurt us was the tight end (Wydermyer). We couldn’t seem to find him.”
Especially on third down it seemed, Arkansas junior linebacker Bumper Pool said.
“"He's a great player,” Pool said. “We knew that going into the week. He was going to be an emphasis for us, but we didn't do a good enough job and that kind of hurt us on third down a lot, I think.”
Mond found Wydermyer or any Aggie he needed, it seemed.
“Kellen Mond played very well,” Pool said. “I mean, he didn't make any mistakes. When you get a guy like that in the SEC playing like that, they're going to be successful. We didn't do enough to interrupt him.”
Mond wasn’t the only quarterback nor Spiller, Ainias Smith and Achane the lone running backs, nor Wydermyer and Aggies wideouts Chase Lane, 3 catches for 50 yards, and Hezekiah Jones, 5 catches for 47 yards, the only receivers excelling at Kyle Field.
Arkansas graduate transfer quarterback Feleipe Franks, 23 of 31 for 239 yards and three touchdowns and a surprising 91 yards rushing on 16 carries including two 28-yard runs while directing an offense without a turnover.
“Feleipe Franks was a warrior tonight,” Pittman said. “I wish he'd get rid of the ball a little bit on some of the sacks (four) that he's taking. But he rushed for almost 100 yards and threw three or four touchdown passes. He’s a tough kid I'm glad he's on our football team.
Sophomore receiver Treylon Burks, seven catches for 117 yards with two touchdowns and a huge 36-yard catch on fourth and one setting up Frank’s 1-yard TD pass to Tyson Morris, and senior running back Rakeem Boyd, 18 carries for a season high 100 yards rushing and a touchdown, posted big nights, too.
“Our backs (Boyd and Trelon Smith, 5 carries for 30 yards) ran harder,” Pittman said.
“Seven catches for 117 yards and a couple of touchdowns,” Pittman said. “He's finally healthy. I think he's as healthy as he's been all year, so we're certainly glad for that. He had a nice ballgame."
Never netting a first down on its first possession the previous four games, Arkansas would have been hard put to open any better than at Kyle Field.
After forcing the A&M punt, Arkansas opened a 12-play 87-yard scoring drive starting with Boyd’s 10-yard run and including Franks’ 28-yard run and finally Franks’ 6-yard touchdown pass to Burks for 7-0 lead at 8:09.
A&M would mount two touchdown drives before Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles called the fourth and one 36-yard Franks to Burks bomb setting up the TD cutting A&M’s lead to 21-14.
“It was a good call by Coach Briles,” Franks said. “Good job by Treylon winning when they were Cover zero right there, bringing everybody.”
Pittman said of the fourth and one long pass gamble: “I don't want to make a living making that call, but we felt like we needed some momentum, and it worked."
By half the Aggies were up 28-14. Three Arkansas drives into A&M territory bogged down into field goal tries by AJ Reed, missing wide left and wide right from 49 and 48 in the first half but kicking a 34-yarder slicing the A&M lead to 28-17 at 10:22 of the third quarter.
“We've got to do a better job scoring in the red zone when we get down there,” Franks said. “I thought we moved the ball well today, but finishing drives is really important.”
Certainly they didn’t quit. Arkansas scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns on Franks’ second scoring pass to Burks and Boyd’s 14-yard run netting his first 100-yards rushing game of 2020.