After what can only be described as a painful trip to Alabama last Saturday, the Razorbacks will look to regroup against the Texas A&M Aggies (2-1). The 11:00 a.m. kickoff will be televised by ESPN.
Saturday’s 38-14 loss was a reality check for everyone involved in the Arkansas program — players, coaches and fans included. While one loss doesn’t knock you out of anything, and a successful season is still attainable, it’s important to take stock of where we are…and who we are.
On offense, the complete absence of a running threat just cripples any chance the Hogs have to sustain drives and score points against quality defenses. You can get by without that run game against average teams, but balance is required to win championships.
Defensively, losing defensive end Tenarius Wright with a broken forearm is a huge blow to a unit already missing captain Jake Bequette. The defense as a whole is improved from a year ago…just not as much as we all would like to think.
Things didn’t just go swimmingly either for Texas A&M Saturday. The Aggies looked to be in control at home against Oklahoma State, leading 20-3 at the half. But the Cowboys roared back in the second half, and for the second straight year rallied to win — this time a 30-29 thriller.
The Aggies aided OSU greatly during the comeback. Four turnovers and ten penalties for 82 yards set the table for Okie State quarterback Brandon Weeden, and he delivered to the tune of 47 for 60, 438 passing yards and 2 touchdowns.
“It’s not like we haven’t been here before. We’ve lost games before. We lost one football game, and it’s very disappointing because this was a very special game for us. It was at home and in front of a great crowd. We had an opportunity to win but we didn’t. That’s what makes it so disappointing.”
Like the Hogs, expectations were high in College Station for 2011. Eighteen returning starters and a top 10 ranking will do that for you.
Offensively, the Aggies are led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill (892 PaYds, 6TDs, 4Ints in 2011). Tannehill took over last year after A&M lost to the Hogs and Mizzou, leading them to six straight wins. He gave them something star quarterback Jarrod Johnson could not…ball security. Tannehill only threw five interceptions all of last season, but has thrown four in the last two weeks.
More so than Johnson, though, Tannehill can run the zone read option, and is a VERY willing runner (see the first drive vs. Oklahoma State for reference). The Hogs will have to plan accordingly.
Running backs Cyrus Gray (292 yards, 4 TDs) and Christine Michael (178 yards, 2 TDs) return and give A&M a solid 1-2 punch in the run game. School record-setting wide receiver Jeff Fuller and his 30 career touchdowns are still around. Receivers Ryan Swope (288 yards, 2 TDs) and Uzoma Nwachukwu (140 yards in 2011) have proven to be good supporting cast members.
On defense, A&M will show multiple fronts. And despite the loss of first-round pick Von Miller to the NFL, the Aggies lead the NCAA in sacks so far in 2011 with 14 (4.67 per game). Linebacker Sean Porter (3.5 sacks) and defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie (3 sacks) lead the way.
The one thing we do know is that defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter likes to blitz — a lot — and from everywhere on the field. The way Alabama knocked Tyler Wilson around, you can bet the Aggies will have their ears laid back this week.
For both teams, the 2011 Southwest Classic will provide an urgent chance for redemption. Look for the Hogs to be primed to welcome their new SEC brethren to the league a year early…if you know what we mean. Texas A&M opened as a three point favorite.