Instant Analysis: Texas A&M 50, Arkansas 43

By: Matt Jones
Published: Saturday, September 23, 2017
Texas A&M defensive back Larry Pryor, left, defensive back Armani Watts, center, and linebacker Otaro Alaka (42) celebrate an interception by Watts in overtime of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. Texas A&M won 50-43. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Texas A&M defensive back Larry Pryor, left, defensive back Armani Watts, center, and linebacker Otaro Alaka (42) celebrate an interception by Watts in overtime of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. Texas A&M won 50-43. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

— Arkansas and Texas A&M played their typical thriller Saturday, but for the sixth consecutive time the Razorbacks came out on the losing end.

The Aggies' 50-43 overtime win at AT&T Stadium felt much like their wins in 2014 and 2015. In all three instances, Texas A&M scored late to force overtime, lost the coin toss, scored on its only overtime possession and held Arkansas out of the north end zone.

The game ended when Texas A&M senior safety Armani Watts intercepted Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen on a third down throw to the end zone. Watts had been beaten on a long touchdown pass minutes earlier when Allen threw 44 yards to receiver Jonathan Nance.

Like so many recent games against the Aggies, Arkansas' defense gave up several big plays. The Razorbacks had not allowed a play longer than 26 yards its first two games, but allowed plays of 81, 79, 50 and 44 yards to the Aggies, who out-gained Arkansas 501-457 in total offense despite having the ball for more than four fewer minutes.

In addition to the defensive lapses, Arkansas also had a key special teams gaffe late when Christian Kirk returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown after the Razorbacks had taken the lead with 5:21 to play. Kirk was not touched on the runback. A botched sky kick minutes later allowed the Aggies to start a game-tying drive inside Arkansas territory.

Daniel LaCamera's 27-yard field goal with four seconds remaining forced overtime.

Kirk's 10-yard touchdown reception in overtime was his second game-winner against Arkansas in the past three meetings. He finished with 110 yards on five receptions, including an 81-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

The defensive struggles wiped out a strong offensive performance by Arkansas. Two weeks after the Razorbacks' worst point total under offensive coordinator Dan Enos, they pulled several new looks out of the playbook. Among them: running back Chase Hayden ran multiple times out of the Wildcat formation; backup quarterback Cole Kelley (6-foot-7, 268 pounds) converted four third-and-short plays with called runs out of the shotgun; end-around runs by receivers Jordan Jones and T.J. Hammonds; and the Razorbacks were unsuccessful on a flea flicker pass attempt early in the game.

Additionally, Arkansas tinkered with its offensive line throughout the game, rotating tackle Paul Ramirez between the left and right sides, and Johnny Gibson between the right tackle and guard positions. Ramirez had a key block on Hayden's 6-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but also had two penalties to begin a drive in the second quarter and also was beat at least once in pass coverage.

The Razorbacks' offensive line allowed a season-high six sacks of Austin Allen. Texas A&M had only seven sacks the first three games this season against UCLA, Nicholls State and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Allen didn't eclipse the 100-yard passing mark until the fourth quarter, when he looked as comfortable as any point this season. His long touchdown pass to Nance came with 5:21 remaining to give Arkansas a 40-36 lead and he also passed 45 yards to Nance to set up another score in the final four minutes.

Allen finished with 229 yards on 12 of 25 passing.

Texas A&M freshman quarterback Kellen Mond had similar numbers to Allen. He completed 14 of 27 passes for 216 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Mond also rushed for 109 yards - one of two Aggies that eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Keith Ford had 102 yards and 2 touchdowns on 14 carries.

A key moment in the game came early in the second quarter when Mond ran 79 yards to the Arkansas 10. Mond ran into the end zone but was called out of bounds on the play. An SEC statement later said side judge Chris Conley incorrectly called Mond out on the play, but replay rules prohibit a review of a play blown dead.

The Razorbacks later were victim of a questionable call when cornerback Kamren Curl was called for pass interference on an incomplete pass in overtime. The pass by Mond appeared to be under-thrown and uncatchable.

Arkansas' pass game took a significant hit on the first play of the second half when senior receiver Jared Cornelius suffered an apparent Achilles injury. Cornelius was carted off the sideline and later appeared on the field with crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The loss will likely intensify fan unrest with Arkansas' coaching staff. Bret Bielema fell to 26-28 overall with the loss, including 10-23 in SEC games. Bielema is 0-5 in games against Texas A&M.

The Razorbacks will return home to Fayetteville next week for a game against New Mexico State. Arkansas follows the game against New Mexico State with four straight SEC games, including three away from home.

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