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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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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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No. 7 Aggies kick-off conference play against No. 16 Arkansas

Isaiah+Spiller+runs+towards+the+endzone+for+a+touchdown.
Photo by Photo by Ryan Hartfiel

Isaiah Spiller runs towards the endzone for a touchdown.

On Saturday, Sept. 25, No. 7 Texas A&M will take on the No. 16 Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, in the fourth game of each team’s season.
This will be the first Southeastern Conference game for the Aggies this season. Since joining the SEC in 2012, the team is 5-4 in conference openers. After a start that saw the Aggies drop two spots in the AP poll despite winning each of their three games, a strong showing could shift the conversation around the squad.
This A&M-Arkansas rivalry, dubbed the Southwest Classic, is a football tradition dating back to 1903. While Arkansas leads the all-time series 41-33-3, the Aggies are riding a nine-game win streak going back to their inaugural season in the SEC.
The Aggies enter the weekend sporting a 3-0 record with wins over Kent State, Colorado and New Mexico. After losing redshirt freshman quarterback Haynes King in the first quarter against Colorado, redshirt sophomore Zach Calzada led the Aggies to a gritty 10-7 victory.
The Aggies bounced back from the nail-biter with a 34-0 victory against New Mexico, cashing in their first shutout victory since the 2016 season. In his starting debut against the Lobos, Calzada went 19-for-33 with 275 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher said Calzada will learn from mistakes over time and he was proud of the Georgia native’s first start.
“To come out in your first start as hot as he did, I think Zach did a good job,” Fisher said. “He held the ball [too long] a couple of times trying to make a big play, and he forced one on a third down. You’ve gotta get in the saddle and play to go through those situations, but we were very proud of how he managed and controlled the game.”
With King out indefinitely with a leg injury, Calzada will be continuing his new starting duties against the Razorbacks. He will be accompanied by a bruising duo in the backfield, as junior running back Isaiah Spiller and sophomore running back Devon Achane have both averaged north of six yards per carry through the first three games of the season.
Despite this hot start, Achane said the backs need to calm down and let the big runs come to them.
“I think we just need to be a little more patient,” Achane said. “I think we get a little too anxious to make a big run. We need to work on taking what we can get and waiting for the big runs to come later.”
Arkansas also enters Arlington with a 3-0 record and will face A&M in its first SEC contest of the season. The team made noise with a 40-21 home win against No. 15 Texas. They also took a 38-17 victory over Rice and a 45-10 win over Georgia Southern.
The Razorbacks’ offense has hummed with a dominant running game. Junior running back Trelon Smith has led the way, compiling 216 yards and three touchdowns throughout the season. While Arkansas has presented itself as a run-first squad, sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson has had success throwing the rock, passing for 632 yards, four touchdowns and two picks through three games. Defensively, Arkansas has also been productive, allowing 16 points per game and 3.93 yards per play.
The A&M defense is looking to continue its dominance against Arkansas since joining the conference. Through the first quarter of the season, the squad has allowed the fewest points per game in the nation at 5.67 and the third-fewest yards per play at 3.64. The team has also not allowed a quarterback to pass for 100 yards yet this season.
Senior safety Leon O’Neal said the entire team is ready to turn it up a notch entering conference play.
“The guys in this locker room know we have to go harder,” O’Neal said. “We know what time it is: it’s SEC time. It’s time to put everything together, and if [Jimbo] says we’re not doing enough, we’re going to dig deeper and try to do more.”
The game is set to kick off at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

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