ARLINGTON, Texas - For the third straight week - and the second year in a row in the same spot - Arkansas found a way to lose instead of finding a way to win.
This time the Razorbacks blew an eight-point, fourth-quarter lead as No. 14 Texas A&M rallied to force overtime and then walked away with a 28-21 win in the Southwest Classic before 67,339 at AT&T Stadium.
“I'm tired of playing close," Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said as his choked up in the post-game press conference. "I'm tired of patting on the back. It's unbelievably gut-wrenching and heart-rending and emotional.
“…I know today we got better. It’s not good enough to win. And gosh, I wish I could take it and take it all myself, just bring it all in myself for all the players and fans and everybody - it sucks.”
Alex Collins rushed for 26 times for 151 yards, Brandon Allen was 20-of-25 passing for 220 yards and Drew Morgan had a career-high eight catches for 155 yards.
But Allen fumbled on what could have been a game-winning drive and then failed to convert on his last two passes of the game.
He had played well throughout the last three games until late in the fourth quarter when he has been unable to rally his team to the win.
“I think he felt the weight of the world on him, you know, I got to do more, I have got to do more, but all we need him to do is his job,” Bielema said of Allen.
“I was trying to emphasize having some fun today and enjoying the moment because he is a kid that puts everything into it.
“We will continue to coach him up and hopefully make him a little bit better and make players around him better and hopefully we will pull this one out here in very short fashion.”
The loss means that Arkansas has now lost 10 consecutive games decided by 10 points or less.
The Razorbacks are now 1-3 overall after losing their fifth consecutive conference opener.
“Whatever it is, the one thing I know about this crew, we have recruited incredible character, you know, fortitude,” Bielema said. “Everybody is going to come up with one million reasons.
“You have a lot of haters that will express their interest and short-term support, but I think our guys are unwavering.
“What doesn’t get us is going to make us stronger and I really expect them to come in and have a great attitude.
“Tomorrow will hurt. It should hurt. We have a lot of upset guys. But again, just because you are upset doesn’t solve the problem. We have to make corrections and move forward.
“I don’t have any reason to believe this group won’t do it.”
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his Aggies (4-0, 1-0) were obviously feeling great after escaping with a win over Arkansas for the second straight year.
“What a game, huh?” Sumlin said. “Only thing I can say. Just really proud of our effort. Proud of the look in the guys’ eyes in the fourth quarter particularly. And you know, we did enough to win.”
A big reason for the loss was Arkansas’ nine penalties for 93 yards (with another one declined) - all seemingly coming at critical times.
"I thought our guys prepared last week during the course of the week very well and we came over here with the idea of a four-quarter game and overtime if we needed to," Bielema said.
"...I said to our team, to myself and our coaches that I knew coming over that I thought we had a good football team and that I am tired of keeping it a secret.
"I think we do so many things that end up costing ourselves and it was things that we hang our hat on and unfortunately it came up today in the worst way today.
“And if we check the tape today, I’m sure it was a lot of different things, but the penalties were just absolutely critical.”
One of those penalties was a false start on a 4th-and-3 play when Arkansas was going for it at the Texas A&M 35 while up 21-13 with 4:19 left in the game.
“….We were going to be aggressive there and go for it on fourth down and we jump offsides and never get a chance to run that play,” Bielema said. “We just can’t win football games doing stuff like that.
“I think our kids need to hear that, they need to hear it every day. Unfortunately you know get into that rut where they are throwing the flag at will at us. Obviously we are the only ones that can change that.”
Instead Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen (21-of-28 passing for 358 yards, two touchdowns) ended up hitting Josh Reynolds on a 63-yard pass and eventually Tra Carson scored from two yards out to cut it to 21-19.
Allen then connected with Reynolds again on the two-point conversion to tie it 21-21 with 2:50 left.
Both teams had a chance to win it after that when Brandon Allen fumbled at the Arkansas 46, but Texas A&M’s Taylor Bertolet missed a 38-yard field goal as time expired.
“The guy was coming around backside there and we have got to protect our quarterback and the continue to do what we had done to get to that point,” Bielema said.
Kyle Allen's 20-yard touchdown pass to Christian Kirk (8 catches, 173 yards, two touchdowns) on the second play of overtime gave Texas A&M the lead for good.
Arkansas failed to pick up a first down in overtime. Brandon Allen's fourth down pass to Drew Morgan was broken up by De'Vante Harris to end the game.
“It goes back to everything we did over the summer,” Kyle Allen said. “…When we get to the fourth quarter we’re an up-tempo offense, hard-hitting defense. And we are going to wear teams down where they can’t handle us in the fourth quarter.”
Arkansas blew a fourth quarter lead for the eighth time in three seasons.
The Razorbacks had taken a 21-13 after Rawleigh Williams' 3-yard touchdown run - the first of his career early in the fourth quarter on a night where he gained a career-high 46 yards.
Texas A&M led 10-7 at halftime. The Aggies tied the game on a 44-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Kyle Allen to Kirk on the first play of the second quarter and took the lead on a 23-yard field goal by Bertolet later in the quarter.
Bertolet added a 22-yard field goal in the third quarter to extend the Aggies' lead to 13-7. Texas A&M twice settled for a field goal after advancing inside the red zone.
Arkansas took the lead 14-13 on Collins' 4-yard touchdown run with 4:17 remaining in the third quarter. Both Collins' score and Williams' fourth quarter touchdown were set up by long receptions from Drew Morgan.
Morgan had a career-high eight receptions for 155 yards for the Razorbacks. Morgan had a 17-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter to give Arkansas a 7-0 lead.
Morgan has become he leader of a group that lost three starters to injury.
He has tried to help Jojo Robinson (4 catches, 25 yards) and Dominique Reed (2 catches, 9 yards) along.
“All week I’ve practiced on keeping this wide receiver group, this core group together so we could prove to this fan base, the world and SEC nation that the receivers at Arkansas have still got it, we’ve still got the juice.”
The Razorbacks, who had a 457-423 total offense advantage, lost despite out-gaining the opposition on offense for the second time in three weeks.
Arkansas is scheduled to play at Tennessee next Saturday.
“We’ll take this tomorrow and watch the tape and no one is going to give us anytime to feel sorry for ourselves,” Bielema said. “I think our guys as evidenced by what they just said in the locker room will come away and we’ll reinforce what we got to do during the week to win football games.
“I told them it is kind of like last year, but we don’t have to wait to the last part of the season to win a conference game.”
Brandon Allen passed for 220 yards and ran for another 35
Dominique Reed had he first two catches of his Arkansas career on Saturday night
Freshman linebacker Dre Greenlaw led Arkansas with five tackles on Saturday