Big 12: Tenarius Wright


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.

[+] EnlargeJerry Jones
AP Photo/Brandon WadeJerry 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.

Mallett, Razorback defense pace comeback after slow start

October, 4, 2009
10/04/09
1:28
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


ARLINGTON, Texas – As his slump-ridden team fell into another early hole Saturday night, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was a little worried.

Considering his team had three successive three and outs and produced zero yards on their first nine snaps, Petrino believed his first trip to the Dallas Cowboys Stadium could end up being a long, frustrating night.

 
  Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
  Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett rebounded nicely after struggling in the past few games.
"I was thinking this wasn't going very good,” Petrino said. "There was a lot of time left on that clock and we weren't doing anything.”

Fortunately for Petrino, quarterback Ryan Mallett was ready. The 6-foot-7 quarterback hooked up with Joe Adams on a 67-yard pass on the first play after those three stalled drives. Three plays later, the Razorbacks scored their first touchdown. And that score sparked an avalanche of 30 consecutive points that boosted the Razorbacks to a convincing 47-19 victory over Texas A&M.

In the process, the Razorbacks were able to blot out bad memories from back-to-back losses to Georgia and Alabama in the last two weeks.

Arkansas likely won't be a contender for the SEC West Division title, but the rebound performance showed the Razorbacks are still a legitimate threat for a bowl trip if they can build on their Saturday night effort.

"I think this helps our confidence a lot,” Petrino said. "We were talking about being a team and taking care of each other and playing together and not hurting ourselves. I think we grew up a little bit tonight."

Petrino said that Mallett showed him during the week that he was intent to bounce back after his struggles at Alabama, where he completed only 12 of 35 passes.

"A game like this will boost your confidence to come out and play 10 times better than we did against Alabama,” said Mallett, who finished with 271 yards and four touchdown passes against a beleaguered A&M secondary. "When we were at Alabama, we didn't have the right juice. We had the right juice here and that's what got us the victory.”

Mallett was understandably contrite last week. But he was able to put aside his own struggles to help his team steamroll to the victory.

His effectiveness at isolating running backs against slower A&M linebackers was particularly noteworthy, as it produced eight of his 17 completions to those backs.

But as big as the turnaround in Mallett's performance was, the Arkansas defense stepping up after being blistered for six touchdowns of at least 40 yards in the last two games was equally of note.

It led Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson to snatch an inspirational page from Howard Beale from the classic movie "Network.”

"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not taking it anymore,” Robinson said. "That's exactly how we felt. We were tired of it. It wasn't like us. We were going to play like we're capable of playing.”

The Aggies were limited to nine points during the rest of the game after A&M jumped to an early 10-0 lead. The quick Razorback defensive front put repeated pressure on Jerrod Johnson, who came into the game third in total offense and 11th in passing efficiency.

Funny thing, however. Playing the Razorbacks was a little different than playing the tissue-soft group of UAB, Utah State and New Mexico that A&M faced to start the season.

The game turned on a critical 14-point swing late in the second quarter with A&M poised to reclaim the lead deep in Arkansas territory. As Johnson was scrambling, he was hit by Arkansas' Tenarius Wright who dislodged the ball. Arkansas outside linebacker Jerry Franklin picked up the fumble -- A&M's first turnover of the season -- and raced untouched for an 85-yard touchdown return.

Arkansas had a 21-10 lead and never looked back from there.

Franklin, a converted high school tight end, flashed a healthy dose of speed on the play.

"It was a huge play for us,” Franklin said. "Our offensive guys were happy to know we had their back. It had been about two years since I scored a touchdown and it felt great."

But as excited as he was about the score, Franklin was more excited about his defense's performance when it most needed it. Together, the Razorbacks helped turn this old rivalry between Southwest Conference foes into a mundane game in the second half when many Aggie fans had already left for the exits.

"We were frustrated the last two weeks because we had given up way too many big plays,” Franklin said. "That made us want to come out and play well tonight. And that's what we did. All of us came together when we really needed it.”

Halftime: Arkansas 30, A&M 10

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
9:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Here's a quick look at the trends that have helped catapult Arkansas to a 30-10 halftime lead.

Turning point: Texas A&M was poised to reclaim the lead early in the second quarter before Tenarius Wright hit Jerrod Johnson in the Arkansas backfield. Arkansas outside linebacker Jerry Franklin picked up the fumble -- A&M’s first turnover of the season -- and raced untouched on an 85-yard touchdown return. It helped contribute to a run of 30 straight Arkansas points after an early 10-0 A&M lead.

Stat of the half: After hitting five of his first eight passes, Johnson finished the half by completing only six of his next 19 passes. The Texas A&M offensive front had trouble keeping speedy Arkansas defensive ends Jake Bequette and Adrian Davis away from Johnson as the half progressed. The result was Johnson’s struggles after a fast three-game start.

Player of the half: Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett looked like a different quarterback in the first half compared to last week against Alabama. Mallett completed 10 of 17 passes for 193 yards and three touchdown. As impressive as his stats was the way he got his entire team involved. Mallett appeared more confident as the half progressed as he passed to seven different receivers and orchestrated the offense strongly as the half progressed.

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