This is an excerpt of a column I wrote for Sporting Life Arkansas. You can read it in its entirety here.
The final score of Arkansas’ game against Texas A&M was about what I expected it to be, but how they got there didn’t happen the way I thought it would.
I expected the Razorbacks to have some success moving the ball and scoring some points against the Aggies’ suspect defense. I didn’t expect Arkansas to be able to essentially keep up with A&M throughout the game until late in the fourth quarter. I didn’t think, even with Brandon Allen at quarterback, Arkansas had the offensive firepower to keep up with Johnny Manziel and the Aggies’ explosive offense.
I would have thought that if Arkansas attempted more passing plays (they tried 36) than rushing plays (30), it would be a sign Arkansas wasn’t going to be competitive. And I certainly never expected Allen to throw for more yards than Manziel (even though he completed fewer passes), more touchdowns, and complete the longest pass of the day. I’d have thought if Arkansas was in a situation where they felt the need to throw that many passes, it would be because they found themselves in a big hole they were desperately trying to get out of.
Yet, even though the Razorbacks were behind the entire game, they were never out of it. Arkansas was only down by a full two touchdowns for a span of 5:12 in the second quarter. They were within two scores the entire game, and three times in the second half had possession with the chance to take the lead. It was, without a doubt, the team’s best performance since the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.
As we all know, the Razorbacks failed to convert those go-ahead opportunities and eventually lost the game. And no one’s trying to gloss the loss. The Hogs made frustrating mistakes. The pick-six just after halftime was brutal. The ill-fated two-point-conversion attempt was questionable at best, and that failure forced Arkansas to go for it on 4th-and-10 from the A&M 16 instead of kicking a field goal to cut the Aggies’ lead to within a single possession. A&M scored 45 points without needing very much magic from Manziel. Eleven of Allen’s 16 completions went to players who don’t play receiver. This isn’t a perfect team by any stretch. There are definitely things the team needs to improve upon.
But understand, optimism after seeing the team making strides in a positive directions is not the same thing as "accepting" or "being happy with" a loss.
Arkansas hasn’t been this competitive against a top 10 team in a loss since 2010 (unless you count the 2012 LSU game, which I don’t because that was a putrid, sloppy, frigid game in which neither team played well and Arkansas only scored 13 points). Facing one of the best offenses in the country with an offense that’s not proven terribly effective even before Brandon Allen was injured, it made sense that this game could have been another in a long series of blowouts against great teams.
But that didn’t happen.