Can A&M get back on track after last weekend's collapse against Oklahoma State?
GAME NOTES: The Texas A&M Aggies of the Big 12 Conference and Arkansas Razorbacks of the SEC will clash this weekend at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Texas A&M will be joining the SEC next season, so all future games between the Aggies and Razorbacks will be league showdowns.
Texas A&M crushed a pair of inferior opponents to build some confidence and momentum heading into last weekend's showdown with Oklahoma State. The Aggies were clearly the better team in the first half of that game, but the Cowboys came roaring back after intermission to steal a 30-29 victory.
"We have to get focused on Arkansas, watch this tape and make the necessary corrections," said coach Mike Sherman after the heart-breaking loss to Oklahoma State. "I don't see things spiraling out of control. It's one game, and we've got to go to the next one."
The Razorbacks are 14-1 in regular-season, non-conference games under head coach Bobby Petrino and have won 12 consecutive non-conference games in the regular season, obvious reasons for confidence heading into this weekend's tilt. Arkansas has started 3-1 for the second straight season, but the club is coming off a 38-14 loss to SEC rival Alabama.
"We always enjoy going to Dallas," coach Petrino said. "It's a great venue for our players and their families and all our recruits from the state of Texas."
Arkansas leads the all-time series with Texas A&M by a 40-24-3 margin, which includes wins in six of the last 10 meetings.
Texas A&M held a 20-3 lead over Oklahoma State at halftime, but the Aggies were outscored 21-0 in the third quarter and managed their only touchdown of the second half with just over two minutes remaining. Ryan Tannehill did some good things under center for the Aggies, throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns, but he did toss three interceptions. Tannehill rushed for 69 yards and a score, while Ryan Swope led the receivers with seven catches for 105 yards,
"We can't do anything about this game now," said Tannehill. "This one's behind us. It's a tough loss and we are all going to be disappointed tonight. We know where we could have been better. There's a tight bond in the locker room."
As well as the Aggies played defensively in the first half last week, they completely fell apart after intermission. In the third quarter alone, A&M surrendered scoring drives of 80, 89 and 56 yards. In all, the club was victimized for 438 passing yards and failed to register a single interception on 60 attempts.
Through three contests, Texas A&M is generating 37.3 ppg and 482.0 total ypg while limiting opponents to 17.0 ppg and 339.3 total ypg. The Aggies are paced by Tannehill's 892 passing yards, as he has completed 67 percent of his attempts with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Swope and Jeff Fuller both have two touchdown receptions, and Cyrus Gray paces the ground attack with 268 yards and four scores.
Put simply, Arkansas was outclassed by an elite Alabama team last weekend. The Razorbacks managed only 226 total yards in that affair and finished 4-of-15 on third-down conversion attempts. Quarterback Tyler Wilson did have a pair of touchdown strikes in the setback, but he was intercepted once and got little help from the running game. After the loss, Wilson was asked how difficult it is to move on from such a disappointing defeat.
"It depends on the maturity of the football team and the leadership within the team," said Wilson. "Preparing this next week to go after Texas A&M and to get a win there will be crucial."
Through four games, Wilson is completing 66.9 percent of his passes for 1,007 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions. Joe Adams leads the club with 21 receptions, Jarius Wright is tops with three touchdown catches, and Cobi Hamilton leads the way with 271 receiving yards. As for the ground attack, Ronnie Wingo Jr. has compiled 260 yards and two scores on 54 carries.
The Arkansas defense permitted 5.1 yards per rush attempt and 13.3 yards per pass completion to Alabama, so there is plenty of room for improvement on that side of the ball. Overall, the Razorbacks are surrendering just 19.0 ppg and 328.5 total ypg. Despite the effort against 'Bama, they are permitting only 3.9 yards per rushing attempt. Keep an eye on Alonzo Highsmith in this tilt, as he has five TFL to his credit.
Expect a second consecutive nail-biter for Texas A&M. This game will likely be decided late in the fourth quarter, and Wilson will make one more big play than Tannehill.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas 31, Texas A&M 27