Photo: Walt Beazley, UA Athletics
A pick six and a punishing running game Saturday propelled the No. 10 Texas A&M Aggies to a 45-33 defeat of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Reyolds Razorback Stadium.
It may not have been Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and star quarterback Johnny Manziel’s plan coming into the game to count on its defense and running game, but it did the trick against the Razorbacks, who did not back down against the highly touted Aggies.
The loss dropped the Hogs to 3-2 on the season and 0-1 in Southeastern Conference play. The Aggies moved to 4-1 and 1-1 in the league.
A&M rushed for 263 yards on 44 carries and Manziel passed for 261 yards and two touchdowns, but the play of the game was made by Aggie defensive back Deshazor Everrett He intercepted Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen’s throw and easily raced 34 yards for a touchdown and a 31-20 lead.
Allen, who missed last week’s game at Rutgers with a bruised shoulder, played well, completing 17 of 36 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns. But his two interceptions were costly.
Freshman Alex Collins gained 117 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries for the Hogs, while Jonathan Williams added 53 yards on 10 carries and 67 yards and two touchdowns on 4 receptions. Hunter Henry made four catches for 109 yards.
Four Aggie rushers carried gained at least 40 yards, led by Trey Williams’ 83 yards on 9 carries.
The Aggies scored on their first three drives of the game, but on the third had to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Josh Lambeau for a 17-7 lead.
Manziel hit Mike Evans for a 9-yard touchdown pass for the Aggies first score, while Ben Malena rushed for a two-yard touchdown.
Between the Aggies first two TDs, Brandon Allen threw the first of two first-half touchdowns to Keon Hatcher for 19 yards and 7-7 tie with 7:43 left in the first quarter.
Zac Hocker booted a 39-yard field goal to keep the Hogs in the game 17-10 with 14:44 to play.
However, the Aggies would not be deterred, taking a 24-10 lead with 11:44 left in the first half. A 21-yard scramble by Manziel keyed a 9-play, 75-yard drive that Manziel punctuated with a 7-yard, scrambling touchdown pass to Evans.
The Razorbacks kept pace in the track meet on Brandon Allen’s 19-yard touchdown strike to Jonathan Williams with 6:02 left in the first half, cutting the Aggies’ margin to 24-17. Williams had a strong nine-yard run on the drive, and his touchdown was set up by a 16-yard carry by freshman running back Korliss Marshall. Allen hit all five of his passes on the drive.
After the Razorbacks go their first stop of the Aggie offense of the night with a sack of Manziel, the Hogs drove 72 yards for a 39-yard Hocker field goal to move within 24-20 of the Aggies. Alex Collins ripped off a 38-yard run to make up half the distance of the drive.
A&M goaded Allen into a dangerous throw over the middle on a 3rd and 5-play on the opening drive of the second half. Everrett picked off the throw and easily raced 34 yards for a touchdown and a 31-20 lead.
The Razorbacks didn’t hang their heads, though. Allen connected on two 20-yard passes to freshman tight end Hunter Henry and Collins broke runs of 19 and 9 yards to punch another touchdown, leaving the score 31-27 with 12:43 to play.
After trading stops, the Aggies drove the ball down the Hogs’ throat, running the ball nine consecutive times to take a 38-27 lead with 4:42 to play in the third quarter.
The Aggies went to work again running the ball, driving 57 yards on seven plays with Ben Malena scoring from the 1 for a 45-33 lead with 10:08 to play.
A 28-yard shuttle pass to Williams helped the Hogs move to the Aggie 16, but four consecutive passes fell incomplete to halt the drive on fourth down with 6 minutes to play, all but ending the Hogs’ hope of pulling off the upset.
The Aggies intercepted Allen’s desperation pass with 3:03 left in game.
Offensive Play of the Game
On 3rd and six at the A&M 19, Allen tossed a short pass to Williams, who spun and bulled his way for a touchdown, breaking four tackles along the way to pull the Hogs within 38-33 with 1:09 left in the third quarter.
Defensive Play of the Game
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen got a bit too comfortable on a 3rd and 5 on the Hogs opening drive. Deshazor Evertt knifed in front of Arkansas receiver Keon Hatcher, who ran a slant, for an interception, which he returned 34 yards for a touchdown and a 21-20 lead.
With the Aggies knocking on the door for another score with a 3rd and 6 at the Arkansas 24, defensive ends Chris Smith and Deatrich Wise chased down and sacked Manziel for a 10-yard loss. The Aggies, leading 24-17, were forced to punt for the first time in the game. Arkansas’ offense responded with a 39-yard field goal to move within 24-20 at the half.
Offensive Player of the Game
Manziel completed 23 of 30 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed for 60 yards on 9 carries. Not a sensational night for last year’s Heisman winner, but he lead his team and did not make a critical mistake.
Defensive Player of the Game
Texas A&M defensive back Deshazor Everett’s 34-yard interception return for a touchdown with 14:19 left in the third quarter was the biggest play of the game and gave the Aggies the cushion they needed to pull of the victory.
The Razorbacks had three possessions in the game when they could have taken the lead, but the Aggies rose up to stop the Hogs on each of them.
Freshman Dan Skipper (6-10, 310) and Denver Kirkland (6-5, 320) started for the first time this season, replacing Mitch Smothers (6-4, 313) and Brey Cook (6-7, 327).
A false start with 8:56 left in the game created a 1st and 15 for the Razorbacks and was their only penalty. Allen’s two interceptions were the big mistakes in the game, but the sophomore’s gutsy play two weeks after straining his shoulder kept the Razorbacks in the game.
The Razorbacks play at Florida next Saturday, but the kickoff has yet to be set. It should be announced Sunday. The Gators moved to 4-1 and 2-0 in SEC play with a 24-7 victory over Kentucky on Saturday.