ARLINGTON, Texas – It appeared for the longest that Arkansas was about to have a season-changing - maybe even a program-changing win - over No. 6 Texas A&M at the Southwest Classic.
The Razorbacks led 28-14 lead with just over 12 minutes left and had the ball with a chance to go up three touchdowns when Jonathan Williams ripped off a tackle-breaking 55-yard run to the Texas A&M 1 yard line.
But a tripping penalty on Dan Skipper way behind the play negated that run, put Arkansas back on its own 29 and the Razorbacks – who had won all four of their previous games at this venue - did not sniff the end zone again.
Texas A&M (5-0, 2-0) used that break and went on to score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime and eventually downed Arkansas 35-28 before 68,113 fans at the Dallas Cowboy's AT&T Stadium.
“Obviously it was a fourth quarter to remember for them and obviously one for us as well,” Razorback head coach Bret Bielema said. “I think the good news about today – and I want to give A&M credit because they did it – but a lot of things that caused us to lose this game today came from within our own locker room.
“I am not getting down on my guys,” Bielema added. “This is just a part of the process to get to where we need to be. I think we made a lot of positive steps forward, but we talk all the time about our third Arkansas edge – playing clean and playing penalty free. Don't put it in a position to beat yourself by what you are doing. We can't win with eight penalties. I know that.”
It was Aggies' third straight win over the Razorbacks (3-2, 0-2), but their first in the Southwest Classic – which Arkansas won the first three held in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“When you have got your foot on somebody's throat, keep it on it,” Bielema said. “Give me another year (here at the Southwest Classic). I can't wait to see that.”
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin was obviously pleased with being able to pull out a win at the end after an Arkansas defense – led by linebacker Martrell Spaight's game-high 13 tackles – frustrated Texas A&M. The Aggies punted six times on Saturday after punting just eight times in their first four games.
Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill (21 of 41 for 386 yards) had touchdown passes for 86 yards to Edwin Pope (4 catches, 151 yards) with 11:59 left and 59 yards to Josh Reynolds with just over two minutes left in regulation and then tossed a 25-yarder on the first play of overtime to Malcome Kennedy.
The Aggies had 290 yards total offense entering the fourth quarter and 233 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“One heck of a game,” Sumlin said. “....I am extremely proud of our older guys. I think we get categorized as a young football team with a quarterback that is young, but our older guys led us and they were in and out of a real football game, a physical game...You know we made enough plays to win in the end.”
The Razorbacks (3-2, 0-2) failed to convert on a 4th-and-2 running call on the last play of the game and fell in their 14th straight SEC game, 10 under Bielema.
“We obviously called a run,” Bielema said. “It is what it is and a play we've been pretty successful on and weren't able to execute as far as getting it done. If we had called a pass and it hadn't been successful, you'd look back and say, why didn't you run it. I thought Jim Chaney called a good game.”
Arkansas could have gone to 4-0 in the event but Skipper was first called for holding to negate a Brandon Allen touchdown pass to Hunter Henry, his tripping wiped out the long run by Williams and then John Henson missed a 44-yard field goal late to go along with the eight penalties for 76 yards.
“It (tripping) was the back side of the play,” Bielema said. “So obviously did something we can't do. We talk all the time about earning everything. We earned that penalty. And that took a potential scoring play off the board for us. We'll move forward. I love the ability to correct more than anything.
“And I felt really good about John and John felt really good about that left hash,” Bielema added. “We were lining up to see if we had a certain look to run a fake on that play. But they had it covered down. So that's why we took the timeout and elected to kick a field goal. And obviously, pushed it a little bit to our left it or pulled it a little to our left.”
Arkansas had rushed out to a lead on a 50-yard TD runs by Alex Collins and punter Sam Irwin-Hill's 51-yard dash. Irwin-Hill's score on a fake put put the Razorbacks ahead 21-14 with 1:03 remaining before halftime.
“You know Sam is a very gifted athlete,” Bielema said. “We know he can run the ball. To the right, to the left and pass it, So we want to take advantage of it. They gave us a look that we wanted. After that, they did look to me. And I triggered it. And obviously a great job of executing.
“I didn't know if he was going to get to the end zone, but he did a really nice job with that,” Bielema said. “Good job on some downfield blocks.”
Irwin-Hill credited his "mates" for the help on his touchdown run.
"It was pretty obvious out there," Irwin-Hill said. "We thought we could execute this and we did. Credit to all the guys. (Snapper) Alan D'Appollonio and the rest of the special team guys, they did a great job in helping me get to the line but its obviously disappointing to not have the victory."
Sumlin noted that Arkansas had its way in the first half.
"The way they play, I mean they are huge," Sumlin said. "And their backs are really, really good. I thought (Arkansas offensive coordinator) Jim Chaney had a excellent plan. They formationed us and got us in some different situations to create real problems, some gap problems. And then they went unbalanced a lot."
"It's a nightmare for what they do. They just don't line up and run over you. They formation you, unbalance, tight ends, motion. And all that time when you are doing that, you know you have to fit the gaps properly. And all it takes is for one guy to be out of one gap and - those backs are good.
"So they had a great plan. I said earlier in the week that I thought the difference in their team is (Arkansas quarterback) Brandon Allen. I think he made some throws early in this game that were right on the money in tight coverage."
Allen was 15-of-27 passing for 199 yards and one touchdown while Collins had 21 carries for 131 yards and Williams 18 carries for 95 yards and the Razorbacks had 285 of their 484 yards total offense on the ground.
Allen's 44-yard scoring pass to wide open A.J. Derby with 5:02 left in the third quarter appeared to put Arkansas in control with its 28-14 lead.
“We feel like we let one go,” Derby said. “Obviously that is a really good football team. We had it right where we wanted it, but we let go at the end.”
Jared Collins breaks up a pass.
Kendrick Edwards (6) makes a reception.
Jonathan Williams tries to keep his balance after finding a big hole.
Taiwan Johnson rushes A&M quarterback Kenny Hill.
Darius Philon tackles A&M's Trey Williams.
Sam Irwin-Hill celebrates with A.J. Derby.
Hunter Henry makes a catch.
Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers celebrates after a stop.
A.J. Derby heads for the end zone on a 44-yard pass play
Alan Turner knocks away a fourth down A&M pass
Quarterback Brandon Allen walks off the field after the loss
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and cornerback D.J. Dean.
Allen looks to throw a pass as Denver Kirkland protects.
Razorback tailback Jonathan Williams looks for yardage.
Flowers pressure Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill.
Hunter Henry picks up a first down
Arkansas field goal kicker John Henson watches his 44-yard attempt go wide left
Photos by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated
Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28
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