Arkansas’ Struggles Continue in College Station
Arkansas’ many struggles continued Saturday in a 58-10 loss to Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.
The loss was their worst road loss since Sept. 17, 2005, when they lost at No. 1 Southern California 70-17. It also dropped Arkansas’ record to 1-4 overall, their worst start to a season since 1992, which was their first season in the Southeastern Conference.
After giving up a touchdown on the first possession of the game, the Razorbacks bounced back, scoring 10 points and taking an early lead.
Senior running back Knile Davis scored on a 64-yard screen pass from senior quarterback Tyler Wilson. The next drive for Arkansas resulted in a field goal by junior kicker Zach Hocker.
By quickly responding, the Hogs displayed the ability to stay focused on the road and answer their opponent.
However, this focus quickly disappeared as the Aggies rattled off 51 unanswered points. During this stretch, the Hogs allowed three field goals, two passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns and a fumble return for a touchdown.
The defense just could not stop Texas A&M’s redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was 29-for-38 with 453 yards and three touchdowns through the air and had 104 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Manziel had ample time in the pocket to find open receivers or open holes to run. Much like the ULM game, the Hogs weren’t able to bring him down, even after they got a hand on him.
Not only must the Hogs pressure the quarterback, they must also wrap him up and tackle him to prevent him from making plays. Kiehl Frazier of Auburn, Bo Wallace of Ole Miss, and Conner Shaw of South Carolina are all quarterbacks that can run around and make plays.
Arkansas’ secondary also didn’t perform very well. Manziel’s 453 passing yards topped his previous single-game high by 159 yards and broke a Texas A&M single-game record.
Defensive backs for the Razorbacks seemed confused at times. Senior wide receiver Ryan Swope hauled in an 80-yard touchdown on a relatively easy seam route. When they laid off the receivers, Texas A&M chewed up yards on quick, short passes.
With an already thin secondary, freshman safety Rohan Gaines and senior cornerback Kaelon Kelleybrew were injured during the game.
The teams left on Arkansas’ schedule are sure to see this and will target young, inexperienced players, such as freshmen Will Hines and Dayvon McKinney and sophomore Alan Turner.
Offensively, the Razorbacks moved the ball well, gaining 515 total yards, but mistakes cost them points. They fumbled five times, losing one of them, and Wilson threw two interceptions.
On the season, Arkansas now has a -13 turnover margin.
Davis had his best game of the season, rushing for 65 yards and gaining 64 yards and a touchdown through the air. These numbers, though, are marred by his three fumbles. He could not hold on to the ball. Against SEC opponents, this could prove to be problematic if he doesn’t fix it.
While the offensive line only allowed one sack, Wilson still got knocked around in the backfield. Texas A&M had five quarterback hurries, but even when Wilson didn’t rush his throw, he ended up being hit as he threw the ball.
Although Wilson has proved his toughness time and time again, he is still human. Against ULM, he suffered a concussion and missed the second half of the game, as well as the Alabama game. If he continues to be hit repeatedly, odds are he’ll get injured again.
Tulsa is first in the country in sacks with 26 through five games, and South Carolina is tied for second with 22 through five games. Kentucky and Ole Miss are also in the top 25 in sacks, each with 13 through five games.
The offensive line is going to need to improve greatly, or Wilson may be on the ground for the rest of the season.
Senior wide receiver Cobi Hamilton turned in another solid game, catching 11 passes for 162 yards. His 591 yards this season are fifth best in the country.
With his performance the last two games, teams will pay extra attention to him. Other receivers, such as junior Brandon Mitchell, freshman Mekale McKay and junior Javontee Herndon, will have to make plays to help ease the pressure on Hamilton.
Special teams improved slightly against Texas A&M. Hocker missed a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter, but he sent two out of three kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and averaged 64.7 yards per kickoff.
Senior punter Dylan Breeding had another good game, averaging 48 yards per punt and pinning one inside the 10-yard line. His season average of 45.5 yards per punt is the 13th best in the country.
Senior Dennis Johnson finally got something going in the return game, returning two kickoffs for 56 yards. His 31-yard return in the first half broke the SEC record for career kickoff return yards.
Also, Arkansas’ punt coverage was able to limit Texas A&M senior Dustin Harris to -7 punt return yards on two attempts. He had been averaging 20.4 yards per return.
The special teams will need a similar performance against South Carolina and LSU, which both have punt returners in the top 20 for punt return yards.
Saturday’s 58-10 loss was another disappointing outing in many aspects, but the Hogs must use it as a learning tool and improve on their mistakes before traveling to Auburn Saturday.