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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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5 takeaways from A&M-Arkansas

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Photo by Courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics

Senior defensive back Leon O’Neal helped A&M hold Arkansas to just one field goal in the second half against Arkansas.

No. 7 Texas A&M football fell short in the Southwest Classic game at AT&T Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 25, to the No. 16 Arkansas Razorbacks, 20-10. The Aggies’ 11-game win streak came to an end, and the journey back toward the conversation of the college playoffs began. 

Here are the five takeaways from the game:

Starting slow … again

As also seen against Colorado and Kent State, the Aggies had a rough first half to kick off the Southwest Classic. Before this game, A&M was ranked first in the nation for allowing only 77.3 passing yards per game. Arkansas nearly tripled that statistic with a total of 229 yards in the first half alone. To start the game, Arkansas put together two drives in less than four minutes, putting the Razorbacks up 10-0. A&M scored no points during this time. 

Head coach Jimbo Fisher said he had a list of things that went wrong for the Aggies during the first half.

“[Arkansas] made plays early in the game,” Fisher said. “We didn’t get guys down, we were out of the gaps and we didn’t tackle well, especially in the first half of the game.”

Yellow flags galore

Penalties held a crucial influence on the Aggies’ loss to No. 16 Arkansas. The maroon and white had five penalties in the first half, resulting in 35 yards lost in the first half. Four of the penalties came on one drive that consisted of a false start, an illegal touching call, a holding call and an illegal formation, resulting in a deep punt that put the Razorbacks in great field position. The Aggies had six more calls throughout the game that cost them 40 more yards, causing their first SEC loss.

Fisher said he was frustrated by the number of veteran players causing most of the penalties tonight. 

“You think your young guys would do it,” Fisher said. “We just got to coach them better, get them better technique and find out why it happened and look at it.”

Third down woes

Neither team had much success on third downs, with A&M completing 28.5 percent of its third downs and Arkansas only completing 23 percent. However, this made a bigger impact on the Aggies, as they went 0-8 in the Southwest Classic on third down plays longer than six yards. Six of those came in the first half alone. 

Fisher said the Aggies have a lot of things to fix before they face off against Mike Leach’s Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday, Oct. 1.

“We’ve got to get better,” Fisher said. “We have to get the guys playing with more consistency, and that’s coaching. We have got to make sure we coach better, too, and put them in better position to make plays.”

Defensive adjustments

After an unfortunate first half, defensive coordinator Mike Elko and his defense were in need of some adjustments to turn things around in the third. The Aggies’ defense came into the third quarter on their toes and immediately made an impact. This included back-to-back three-and-outs that eventually led to A&M’s first touchdown of the night. Graduate linebacker Aaron Hansford picked up his first sack of the game after the touchdown, forcing the Razorbacks to punt again. Senior safety Leon O’Neal also made a huge tackle to set up an opportunity for redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada to go tie it up in the fourth.

Junior defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal said the changes made at halftime were almost entirely mental for the Aggies.

“For those first few drives, we had to come back together,” Leal said. “During halftime, we talked to each other and came back to try to get things done in the second half.”

Spiller’s time

Despite the loss, junior running back Isaiah Spiller put on a show for the Aggies. In the first half, Spiller led the team in receiving and rushing yards, with 55 total. He also had the longest run of the night on a 67-yard carry into the endzone that cut Arkansas’ lead down to seven. 

Spiller finished off the night with 95 yards on 12 attempts and a touchdown. 

Spiller said the team learned the importance of practice and its implementation in game-time situations.

“Everything that we do matters,” Spiller said. “Every step we take, every thought we think during the game, it matters. I feel like we’re going to take that forward, and I’m going to enforce it as a leader on this team.”

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