Hop's Offensive Grades: Arkansas

Texas A&M entered Saturday's game against Arkansas with the most productive offense in college football but the Aggies failed to keep up with the prolific Razorback offense. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop grades out the offense and takes a look at the coaching decisions.

If I asked any Aggie fan before Saturday what they thought A&M would do against Arkansas given the following stats, what would they say:

1) A&M converts 12 more first downs
2) A&M outgains Arkansas 458-434 yards
3) A&M wins the turnover battle 3-2
4) A&M snaps 35 more offensive plays
5) A&M wins time of possession by five minutes
6) A&M defense had a higher frequency of tackles for loss .

That smells like an A&M win doesn't it. At the very least it appears to be a close game. So how did this turn into a 32-point route? It's not like A&M piled up meaningless statistics in trash time. They moved the ball successfully in the first quarter and quickly established a 10-0 lead thanks to a balanced attack. However, the numbers don't show the big plays by Arkansas or the mistakes that turned the momentum of the game. .

Early on, Jamie McCoy drops an easy 15 yard pass that would have easily converted a third down play on the second drive in Arkansas territory. After scoring a touchdown on a 60-yard strike to Brandal Jackson, A&M was poised to score again and answer Arkansas' touchdown when Jerrod Johnson found Ryan Tannehill all alone behind the defense and he inexplicably dropped the pass. In fact, many fans look at that mistake as the big momentum wing in the game. If it's not that one, then surely it was the Johnson fumble inside the Razorback 10 yard-line that was scooped up and returned the other way 85 yards to extend the lead to 21-10. Thus, a potential 17-14 A&M lead becomes a significant 21-10 deficit with the QB now rattled. Yes, mistakes cost this team. Even with the suspect offensive line play, the team was executing and moving the ball downfield. Once the Pigs opened up a big lead and A&M began to pass more, the Arkansas defensive line began controlling the line of scrimmage and the ball game forcing Johnson to run for his life.

We knew going into the 2009 season that this extremely young team would be all over the map, playing like worldbeaters at times while looking overwhelmed and lost at other times. A&M fans saw both ends of the pendulum on Saturday. Expect this roller coaster ride for the next month. Hopefully, by the time November comes around, this unit matures and their play will be more consistent. In meantime, be prepared for a wild ride.

Quarterback D+

At first glance, 345 yards and two touchdown passes look pretty good. However, Johnson was not very efficient collecting those numbers completing just 51% of his passes on 30-for-58 attempts. It's hard to absorb 28 incompletions in the course of a game, and then there's the huge fumble inside the 10 yard-line by Jerrod that completely changed the momentum of the game. Johnson did a good job of throwing against his body to find Brandal Jackson on the 60 yard touchdown pass, but more times than not when Johnson did have time to throw in the first 20 minutes of the game he had a hard time locating receivers and gave up on several critical plays in the first four drives when the Aggies were moving the ball. But what concerned me the most was he lost his focus and he seemed rattled after the fumble return, and that bled over to the rest of the offensive unit.

Running Backs C-

Cyrus Gray opened the game with a nice kick-out to the outside for 30 yards that set the tone in the first quarter. For the most part, Gray ran with authority and maximized his yardage. Christine Michael also had some nice 8-9 yard runs early. I'm a little disappointed that Michael hasn't really exploded with a big home run play, and I was a little surprised he went down easily in the open field on a one-on-one tackle on a screen pass that had the potential to be a big play. It was a solid overall, but nothing spectacular outside of that first run by Gray.

Wide Receivers D

I was disappointed in the effort from this unit. Arkansas has been toasted all season and they were holding competitions for the starting cornerback job this week in practice. In the first quarter when Johnson did have time, he struggled to find an open receiver. On a couple of plays in the first half when Johnson scrambled and literally bought 8-10 seconds, he still threw the ball away. If given that much time, receivers need to come back to the ball, separate, and find the open space. It's inexcusable not to get it done in those situations. On the play where Johnson escaped from the pressure twice and bought 10 seconds, those are the kinds of plays you need to score on…not throw the ball away. Also, I saw poor route running. On the play where Howard Morrow interfered with the defender to save the interception, he severely rounded off his cut. A good, clean cut and that's a completion at the 15 yard line as opposed to a third and 25 from midfield. Then there's the Ryan Tannehill drop. It was clearly the worst performance of the season.

Tight End D

I was very disappointed with the play at tight end. On the second drive of the game with the Aggies again moving the ball downfield, Johnson had time and fired a third down pass at Jamie McCoy that was good for the first down except that the ball hit McCoy's should pad and bounced to the turf. A senior in that situation has to make that play. It was a perfect pass in his bread basket. He also received a critical procedure penalty on a second and one scenario inside the Hogs' 40 yard line that eventually resulted in stalling the drive. He finished the night with five catches for 40 yards but a senior can't make those mistakes.

Offensive Line D+

I know this grade will garner the most discussion and disagreement, because I know many of you want to blame the offensive line and give them an F. Go back to the video and see how much time Johnson has on those first four drives. It wasn't until the 11:52 mark of the second quarter when the pass rush disrupted Johnson and the passing game. Until that time, Johnson had time and the running game was purring having gained 71 yards at that mark in second quarter when it all went south. For the next 40 minutes after Arkansas returned the fumble and jumped out to a 21-10 lead, the line was atrocious. I won't deny that. Stephen Barrera whiffed a few times on his assignment and Lee Grimes did the same thing on the right side, and that left Johnson a sitting duck. I'm not going to sugar coat the situation in the second half. It was bad. However, the line did give the skill players an opportunity (along with Hog turnovers) to realistically score 24 points in that half that would have made this a game in the second stanza and they didn't do it. Yes, the line was beaten badly for the last two-and-a-half quarters, but there are plenty of other reasons for the team's demise on Saturday.


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