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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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Aggies crack down, prepare for SEC opener against Arkansas

Mike+Matthews
Meredith Collier
Mike Matthews

 
The Aggies’ stout defensive line will have its work cut out on Saturday night against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Entering week four of the 2015-2016 season, Texas A&M leads the nation at quarterback sacks with 14. The Razorbacks have yet to allow a sack by an opposing team this year. 
At this week’s news conference, head coach Kevin Sumlin said stat sheets are not what motivate his players to get after their opponent. 
“They want to get a sack regardless of what the stats say,” Sumlin said regarding his defensive unit. 
The Aggies have had a strong start to the season, moving up in the AP ranks to No. 14, but now only one thing matters moving forward: SEC play. Senior center Mike Matthews has been around the A&M program for a while and said he knows how college football works and when the team really needs to elevate its level of play. 
“This is where it all really matters, conference play,” Matthews said. “This is where you need to get your wins.” 
Arkansas (1-2) will make the trip to Arlington fresh off its second straight loss. With losses to first the MAC’s Toledo and the Big 12’s Texas Tech, the Razorbacks have lost some of their credibility around the SEC, dropping away from their original No. 18 rank. Regardless of their struggles, Sumlin said he and his staff are approaching the game the same way they do any conference game — with undivided focus. 
“It was an overtime game last year [against Arkansas] that took a lot out of our football team,” Sumlin said. “This is the beginning of conference play. Nothing has changed from our point of view of how we feel about Arkansas or how we view Arkansas.”
Last season, Arkansas boasted two 1,000-yard rushers in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, who ran behind the biggest offensive line in college football. This year, the Razorbacks are without Williams for the entirety of the regular due to a foot injury sustained in the summer, which required surgery. 
Still at Arkansas’ helm is quarterback Brandon Allen, who came into the season considered as more of a game manager. However, Allen averages over 300 passing yards per game and boasts a completion percentage of over 67 percent.
“He was a good quarterback last year and he’s a better quarterback this year,” Sumlin said. 
As of late, this matchup has seen Arkansas dominate the ground game while A&M controls the air attack. But, the Aggies could potentially control both phases of the game come Saturday. Up to this point in the season, the Aggies have outgained the Razorbacks in the run game by over 150 yards while also compiling four more touchdowns through the air.
A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said he’s liked what he has seen from his offensive group so far.
“I think the balance of the run game and the passing attack is going to be very beneficial, especially when we enter SEC play,” Spavital said. “The run game has been great. I thought we have shown huge improvements from last year, and I think you’re going to continue to see that.”
Saturday holds the capability of producing some milestones for a pair of Aggies. Sam Moeller enters A&M’s first SEC game one start shy of tying Nick Lamantia’s record for most starts as the 12th Man (30). A&M’s breakout receiver from a year ago, Josh Reynolds, now sits at 22 yards short of the 1,000 receiving yards threshold. Seeing how Reynolds is already averaging 17 yards per reception, it should only take a couple touches for the junior to reach the mark.
Throughout A&M’s first three games, a multitude of players have seen the field. Whether it was due to injury or the fact that Sumlin felt comfortable enough with the lead at the time, many of the “2’s” have seen extended minutes. Sumlin said he is excited about having increased depth at multiple positions and ensuing his trust in guys to perform in “meaningful situations.” The depth and experience of players will play a large role in this team reaching its true potential.
“We’ve got the tools to be a good football team, Sumlin said. “We have to get better to become the team we’re capable of being.”
Coaches are typically reluctant to admit that the team gets especially excited or worked up for particular games, claiming that every game demands the same amount of focus and intensity. The players, on the other hand, were not shying away from admitting that this game, being the beginning of SEC play, holds an extra element of oomph.
“Everyone is amped and ready to go,” said senior running back Tra Carson. “It’s going to be exciting.”
Kickoff for the Aggies and Razorbacks is set for 6 p.m. at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN.

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