Saturday, October 1, 2011
Another blown lead, more A&M frustration
By David Ubben
ARLINGTON, Texas -- R.C. Slocum coached Texas A&M to its first and what now looks like it will be its only Big 12 title in 1998.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was a co-captain of Arkansas' only national title team back in 1964. Before Saturday's game, the two shared a moment on the Texas A&M sideline.
"How 'bout those Aggies comin' to the SEC?" Jones asked. His school made the move from the Texas-based Southwest Conference to the SEC in 1991.
"Oh, man," Slocum said with a grin of anticipation as the two shook hands.
Oh man, indeed.
If Slocum had known what he was about to watch, that grin would have been a groan.
Last week, Texas A&M blew a 17-point halftime lead in a loss to Oklahoma State. A day later, it celebrated its move to the SEC.
This week? Try 18 to Arkansas, which roared back to take its first lead with 1:41 left and beat the Aggies, 42-38.
Broderick Green's 244-pound frame barreled over the goal line, and the Arkansas contingent exploded as the Aggies in attendance began wondering what the traffic on Interstate 30 would look like on the way back home.
Not the best first impression for the Texas A&M Aggies, who didn't quite fill their half of Cowboys Stadium as Hog fans showed up in force.
Jerry Jones congratulates Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino after the Razorbacks beat Texas A&M.
By game's end, Jones was back on his alma mater's sideline, handing over the trophy for the Southwest Classic (a game he helped create) to Bobby Petrino's Hogs.
"It's a travesty that we didn't win this football game," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said.
The Aggies won this game where good SEC teams win games: at the line of scrimmage.
Texas A&M sacked Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson four times and harassed him on countless other occasions, assuring he wakes up Sunday morning as sore as he's been all season. Arkansas' struggling running game continued to do so, rushing for just 71 yards on 30 carries.
The Aggies, meanwhile, protected quarterback Ryan Tannehill well and ran for 376 yards on 54 carries, an average of seven yards a carry on Arkansas' defense, which played without its two best defensive linemen: Tenarius Wright and Jake Bequette.
Texas A&M, though, lost this game where the rest of college football loses games: on the scoreboard.
"The stats don't matter," Tannehill said. "The only things that matter are the W or L and we didn't get it covered in the second half."
For a day, Texas A&M looked on the field exactly what it is off the field: an odd hybrid of an SEC and Big 12 defense. For all of Texas A&M's strength up front, it lost the game the way Big 12 teams have lost games for the majority of the league's 15-year history.
Wilson racked up a school-record 510 yards passing, shattering Ryan Mallett's record of 409 yards against SEC doormat Vanderbilt.
Texas A&M's defense has now gone 15 quarters without forcing a turnover, with apologies to Justin Blackmon's gifted touchback at Kyle Field last week.
"This defense is structured -- we take some risks defensively," Sherman said of his defense, which ran defensive backs at Wilson from various angles throughout Saturday's loss. "There's some gain when you create turnovers, and we've not been able to do that now for three weeks. That is certainly an obvious concern."
Also of concern for the Aggies was Sherman's unwillingness to try to convert a fourth-and-2 at Arkansas' 39-yard line, nursing a 35-20 lead, and a fourth-and-1 on Texas A&M's 49-yard line with a 35-27 lead.
The Aggies punted both times -- first for 19 yards to the Arkansas 25 and second for 37 yards down to Arkansas' 14 -- and the Hogs scored touchdowns after both kicks.
"If I felt like our defense was playing a little bit better, I probably would have gone for it. I felt like I just couldn’t give them a shortened field," Sherman said. "If we were had been playing better defense--if this had been last year -- probably would have."
Said Tannehill: "That's the head coach's call. That's what he gets paid the big bucks for. Whatever he calls, we're going to go with it. ... We trust coach and you've just got to go with the call."
The game ended, and despite holding a huge lead early, Texas A&M was serenaded with an "S-E-C" chant at Cowboys Stadium for a fourth time in three seasons, dropping to 0-4 on the field in Arlington.
"It's emotionally tough," Tannehill said.
Maybe soon, the Aggies will be the chanters and not the chant's target. But for now, another painful loss.
For two consecutive weeks, Texas A&M has known well what it feels like to lose a game it should have won.
For at least another few months at the end of a 16-year and seven-game drought, the Aggies are left wondering how it feels to beat an SEC team.