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

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

The Battalion

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Tale of two halves

Photo by Courtesy of Kate Luffman/Texas A&M Athletics

Texas A&M’s first loss in nine years to the Arkansas Razorbacks will serve as a wakeup call, as the Aggies prepare for the Saturday, Oct. 2 matchup against 2-2 Mississippi State. 

A 20-10 Texas A&M loss to Arkansas on Sept. 25 emphasized a recurring issue affecting the Aggies this season: slow starts have been putting the Aggies in tough positions at halftime, and it came back to bite them against the Razorbacks.
“You never win a game in the first quarter,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “But you can put yourself behind the 8-ball, and that’s exactly what we did early in the game.”
At the halfway point of the Southwest Classic, the Aggies trailed the Razorbacks 17-3. A&M allowed scores on each of Arkansas’ first three possessions, including a one-play drive and a four-play drive each resulting in long touchdown passes.
A&M allowed the fewest passing yards per game in the nation through the first three weeks at 77 yards per game, but allowed 229 passing yards in the first half alone in Arlington. Arkansas’ junior wideout Treylon Burks had 160 receiving yards and a touchdown, while the entire A&M offense only had 134 total yards and zero scores.
“They made plays early in the game,” Fisher said. “We didn’t get guys down. We were out of gaps. Didn’t tackle well.”
The second half saw an improvement on both ends as the Aggies outscored Arkansas 7-3 and forced five punts on six drives. The maroon and white narrowly outpaced the Razorbacks in yardage as well, putting up 138 second half yards to Arkansas’ 136.
“[The improvements were] more of a mental thing,” A&M junior defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal said. “We came back and just came out together and tried to get it done in the second half.”
Despite the uptick in production, falling behind that “8-ball” put the Aggies in a tough position where they were forced to come from behind in order to win. The 17-point halftime deficit made every play more valuable on both ends.
With the margin of error so thin, any mistake can be costly and end all comeback dreams. A long touchdown run by sophomore running back Isaiah Spiller cut the Razorback lead down to 17-10, but redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada’s fourth quarter interception showed just how costly one mistake could be.
Calzada’s first-down pass deflected off of freshman center Bryce Foster’s helmet at the line of scrimmage and into the outstretched arms of Arkansas’ senior defensive back Montaric Brown. This gave the Razorbacks excellent field position on the A&M 48 yard-line. Arkansas capitalized with a field goal, and its one possession lead grew to two with less than a quarter remaining.
“When we did score, it was a little momentum,” Spiller said. “I feel like when we came back out and an interception kind of hurt us, just goes back to self-inflicted wounds. Just can’t have them. Every play matters.”
These first half struggles are nothing new to the current season. Through the first four games, the Aggies have surrendered 37 points to opposing teams, 27 of which came in the first half of games. On the offensive end, A&M scored less than 10 points in the first half of three of its four contests.
Despite the slow starts, A&M pulled off wins in the second half of its first three games, including a last second come-from-behind win against Colorado. Facing their first ranked opponent in No. 16 Arkansas, however, the Aggies were not able to finish off the comeback. This may be a wake-up call for the A&M football team as the players prepare to dive deeper into their SEC schedule.
“I feel like we learned today that practice matters,” Spiller said. “I feel like everybody needs to become more focused. As a unit, I feel like we need to trust each other more.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated A&M outscored Arkansas 17-0 in the first half and 10-3 in the second half. This article has since been updated to reflect the correct statistics of A&M outscoring Arkansas 17-3 and 7-3 in the first and second half, respectively. The Battalion regrets this error. 

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