It's time to look back at what we thought were the keys to watch for the Texas A&M game, now that Arkansas has put a 24-17 victory in the books. Some of them were on target keys that worked out for the Hogs and some of them were not. We'll go through them, one through 10.
1) Ryan Mallett. I liked the way Garrick McGee described Mallett's 27 of 38 day for 310 yards and three passing touchdowns. There was much to like and much that also had to be labeled as a disappointment. Mallett missed some throws. The Hogs left some points on the field because of those misses. But as McGee pointed out afterwards, the Hogs are "fortunate" to have the big thrower. He can play better. However, he was one of the reasons the Hogs won the game. A&M gave Mallett some problems. It wasn't form ball where he put on a clinic with his right arm. It was a tough, hard-fought game. Mallett has some things to clean up in his execution. He got a key penalty for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter for some nastiness in the pile after a sack. He can't do that in the fourth quarter.
2) Jerrod Johnson. The Hogs made it tough on Johnson. He was 15 of 40 with an interception. He also lost a fumble. He was only sacked twice, mainly because he tossed it towards the stands every time the Hogs had a man come free in the rush. As much as some were disappointed with the way Mallett played in some situations, he outplayed Johnson. That's the reason the Hogs are 2-0 in the Southwest Classic against the Aggies.
3) Pass protection. This was a battle both ways all day. Neither team gets an A for their protection execution. But the Hogs did a little better than the Aggies. The Hogs must improve their execution in play checks in noise conditions. There were 13 penalties and a bunch of them were false starts when Mallett was trying to make changes. That goes under protection problems. The Hogs gave up one more sack than the Aggies, but the Hogs forced 25 incomplete passes from Johnson.
4) Safety first. Not much difference here, but the Hogs were the last safeties standing. Tramain Thomas got the interception to seal the game and also had a key pass breakup. Rudell Crim also added a fumble recovery. The tackling was solid from both sets of safeties. There were no major busts either way. They didn't turn receivers loose and they sealed the deal in the run game.
5) Turnovers. Maybe this was the winning edge. A&M had four turnovers, Arkansas two. One of the UA turnovers, Mallett's interception, gave the Aggies six points. The other miscue by the Hogs was a fumble on a trick play, a fake field goal. It looked like the Hogs didn't take as many chances in the passing game after the early interception by Mallett. He seemed reluctant to throw it down the field with A&M playing cover three and cover two, keeping safeties back in deep coverage.
6) Wide receivers vs. cornerbacks. Arkansas gave up a couple of plays, but definitely did a nice job in coverage throughout the day. A&M didn't give up big plays, either. The tackling was solid for both sides. This was probably a wash. Darius Winston started for Isaac Madison, but both played. Both gave up a big play. The Hogs had eight pass breakups, to three by the Aggies.
7) The Arkansas pass rush. This was an area where the Hogs didn't come away with stacks of sacks, but they did put pressure on Johnson throughout the day. He felt the rush and was quick to dump the ball. The stat man didn't list any quarterback hurries for either team, but the Hogs had plenty. Jake Bequette had a sack with the other being split between Tenarius Wright and Colton Miles-Nash. Afterward, the Aggie quarterback noted that the strength of the UA defense is the ends. He knew they were there.
8) The Arkansas running backs. This was a step up against a defense that had been alright against the run. The Hogs gained 173 yards on the ground, although the net turned out to be 132 after 41 yards lost. Knile Davis broke a 45-yarder and Broderick Green had a gallop of 23. It wasn't awesome, but improvement. The Hogs were handicapped by so many false starts that turned a running situation into a passing spot. If you are going to run the ball, you can't start a possession with a first-and-15 because of a procedure penalty. The cuts seemed better, but there were still times when things didn't click because of a wrong angle. The wide receivers have to get better with down-the-field blocking, or the backs aren't using them right.
9) Emotion. Both teams fought hard. If you go by defensive effort, both teams put a lot into this game. Arkansas looked like a hungry team and the Aggies wanted it, too. There was a question about how each would bounce back from losses. That was answered. They both fought until the end of the game.
10) The fourth quarter. This is where the game was strange. It was a scoreless deadlock in the fourth quarter. To be honest, there weren't even any major threats in the last quarter. No goal line stands, no chances at big plays. Just tough defense in the other team's end of the field. There might have been some passes into the red zone, but no plays that started in either red zone. So you give kudos to the defense for fighting to the end and perhaps some disappointment for the way the way the offenses executed in the final quarter. That more than anything left the Hogs thinking they played hard, but not exactly well.
Bobby Petrino takes the trophy from Jerry Jones.
Photo by Marc F. Henning
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