Hop's Five Keys to Success - Arkansas

With a difficult road trip to a rabid Red Raider fan base in Lubbock looming, the Arkansas game at Jerry World has sudden;y become critical to a season that began with great promise. A win and the Aggies are back on the right track heading into the teeth of a Big 12 schedule. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop gives his five keys to success for an Aggie victory

1. Who Will Play

Clearly, injuries will play a huge role in this game. Arkansas already has RB Knile Davis gone for the year and defensive end Tenarious Wright is out for the game. However, the Hogs have several critical players that are questionable and will be game time decisions. Defensive end Jake Bequette missed last week, but took limited snaps on Thursday. He has eaten up A&M offensive tackles in this game. If he's out, the Pigs must go to battle with true freshman Trey Flowers. Also, starting cornerback Isaac Madison missed most of the Alabama game and is questionable. He also took some snaps on Thursday and is a game time decision. On the A&M side, it appears Jonathan Mathis may be out for Saturday, putting a lot of burden on the shoulders of Ben Bass. Coryell Judie was sorely missed last week, and he'll be needed to neutralize Arkansas's three big receivers. I'm hearing he's a game time decision as well. Steven Campbell is once again on the sidelines with injury, meaning that Steven Terrell will take his place. A&M loses size and run support with that change.


2. Jeff Fuller, Jeff Fuller, Jeff Fuller

The return of the Jeff Fuller we know and love from his junior season is critical. In last year's 24-17 loss, Fuller was the key offensive playmaker and he needs to step-up and play like a senior. He not only needs to work the sidelines, but he has to sell his go-routes and the only way to do that is to have success on some deeper routes early which will back-off the cornerbacks. Arkansas saw the OSU game, and they saw the LSU game last year. They are convinced Fuller won't be them deep and the DB's will do exactly what OSU did last week.


3. Pass Rush

I agree that the slow defensive calls played a part in OSU's second half comeback, but if you ask me the biggest issue was the lack of a significant pass rush. Weeden had all day in the pocket, even when DeRuyter was bringing blitzes from everywhere. OSU had a very experienced offensive line. Arkansas has a very young line. With the caliber of the Hogs' receivers, it is critical that the A&M rush gets to QB Tyler Wilson. That puts a lot on the shoulders of Damontre Moore. He has to be a factor coming off the edge.


4. Stop the Run

Arkansas had a hard time running the ball against Alabama, managing only 17 yards on 18 carries. Is the Bama defense that good, or is Arkansas just that bad on the ground. The answer probably resides somewhere in the middle. The Aggie defense needs to hold the Hogs to under 75 yards, and force Petrino's offense into long passing situations. If Arkansas can establish a rushing attack that can consistently get 5-6 yards on first down, A&M is in trouble. They will have enough problems with Arkansas' playmaking receivers without having to deal with unpredictable 2nd and short situations.


5. Making Plays in the Run Game

On the flip side, the Aggies must establish a ground game, especially with some of the advantages along the line of scrimmage. A&M has the playmakers at running back and a talented, maturing offensive line. Surprisingly, A&M has had troubles establishing the run, and it goes deeper than just the second half of the OSU game. Even before the OSU game, the Aggies ranked a disappointing No. 8 in the Big 12-2 averaging a mediocre 4.6 yards a carry against two lesser opponents. It was Texas A&M's running game that carried the team through its magical six-game winning streak in 2010 punctuated by Cyrus Gray's two long touchdown runs that were critical in defeating Texas. The Aggies need to establish a consistent rushing attack, and in addition hit on a couple of big running plays to keep the pressure off Ryan Tannehill and the passing game. Tannehill is less effective (as is any QB) when dealing with down-and-distance situations that dictate passing plays and take away any unpredictability.


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