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The Battalion

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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One step away
June 8, 2024

ANALYSIS: Kirk, veterans pave way in A&M’s win over Arkansas

Photo by Photo by Carlie Russell

Junior Christian Kirk celebrates after his 81 yard touchdown catch. This career long catch was one of his three touchdowns of the day.

ARLINGTON — Facing multiple fourth-quarter deficits, Texas A&M needed somebody to lean on.
Fortunately for the Aggies, they found three – particularly No. 3, Christian Kirk.
In A&M’s first three games, the explosive wide receiver and special teams weapon had been hindered from a breakout performance.
Saturday afternoon against Arkansas however, Kirk kicked down the door and made his presence known.
The junior led the Aggies with five receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns. His final catch proved to be the game-winner on 10-yard corner route in overtime.
“It’s a basic high-low corner route. The defender on me slipped inside. Kellen [Mond] saw it, and it was just execution,” Kirk said of the play. “It was a great throw by him, and I just had to make that catch in a big-time like that.”
To keep A&M in the game and force overtime, the Aggies turned to Kirk in the return game after Arkansas went ahead 36-33 with 5:21 left.
Kirk’s longest kick-return this year coming into the game had been 37 yards, until he took one 100 yards to house giving the Aggies a 40-36 lead with 5:10 to go.
“We’d done a great job of kick coverage, really gassing those guys up all week,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said of the touchdown return. “It was a huge play in the game and it happened so quickly. We need to take it down a few. They had to march on the field, they just couldn’t do it. It was a big play that really hurt us.”
A sneaky good game came from safety Armani Watts, who led the team with eight tackles. Watts had a roaring finish, as he recorded the game-winning interception in the end zone on the Razorbacks’ overtime possession.
“We were running off the MIKE [linebacker]. We had two corner routes. The one to my left was taken, so I figure the one to my right was taken,” Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen said. “I just tried to throw it low and to only where my guy would get it, and their guy made a good play. I thought we were going to get it.”
Aside from Mond’s 79-yard run in the first half, the Aggies were held to a mere 46 rushing yards on 15 carries, with the only other run longer than 10 yards coming from Trayveon Williams’ 18-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
A&M flipped the script in the second half`, busting for 160 yards on 26 carries. Keith Ford led the way with 95 yards on 10 carries in the final 30 minutes, tacking on two touchdowns as well.
“We just knew that we were the better team, and we knew — we just communicated with each other,” Ford said. “Just know where the offensive line is going to be and know where my cut is going to be.”
Another senior, Damion Ratley, may have made the most pivotal play on the Aggies final drive in regulation, converting a fourth-and-3 to keep A&M’s comeback hopes alive. From there, Ford continued to rip down the field to set up Daniel LaCamera’s tying 27-yard field goal with four seconds left.
“We just don’t want to lose our opportunity right here with a young guy,” Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “So we kind of took it out of his hands and ran it and kicked it.”
Sumlin said A&M’s win over Arkansas took the entire team but depended on the play of its experienced leaders to come away with a victory.
“You talk to them about, hey, look, you have been here before … You need to make some plays and lead us,” Sumlin said. “They don’t just talk about it. You get the opportunity to do something about it, you do it. And obviously those guys did down the stretch.”

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