If there’s one thing of which I’m certain, it’s that the Razorbacks will continue to lead the way in creating new and shocking ways to rip hearts out. Last week was full of spit and anger; this week, something else. This was the most “Surprised Pikachu” game I’ve ever seen. Before the game, I knew there would be sadness, so why am I stunned that it happened again?
Arkansas once again lost a heartbreaker to Texas A&M, this time 31-27. On fourth down and less than a minute to play in the redzone, Cheyenne O’Grady couldn’t gather the pass from Ben Hicks, and that was that. For the eighth year in a row, the Hogs took another L from a long-time little brother (I’m sad, so I’m petty).
The game began a little differently than we’ve been accustomed to seeing. For the first time this season, Arkansas won the toss and elected to receive the ball. With every previous opponent but Ole Miss scoring on their opening drive, this seemed like a sound correction. It looked even better as Arkansas moved the ball, stopping only after getting into field goal territory. Normally-steady kicker Connor Limpert missed the kick wide right, and the Hogs couldn’t capitalize on the starting possession. Missing these three points would end up making a huge difference at the end of the game.
The Aggies and Hogs would trade punts, then an 63-yard drive for the Aggies ended when Kellen Mond’s nine-yard pass to Ainias Smith gave A&M the opening touchdown of the game. The Hogs would respond early in the second quarter with a 46-yard field goal from Limpert, right on the money, as he typically is.
On the ensuing possession, Texas A&M drove 77 yards, taking a 14-3 lead when Isaiah Spiller ran into the endzone.
Arkansas looked like they would respond in a positive way, as they made their own drive toward the endzone, highlighted by a 27-yard pass from Nick Starkel to O’Grady. The drive would end, distressingly, as Starkel’s pass to a tripped-up Rakeem Boyd fell right to an Aggie defender. To add injury to insult, Starkel hurt his left arm attempting to tackle Justin Madubuike. He would not return to the game.
Things were looking bad, in that old familiar way.
Stunningly, on the next play, a botched Aggie hand-off led to De’Jon Harris scooping and scoring and changing the complexion of the game. The score was 14-10, and Arkansas had swung some momentum back.
Here, the Razorback defense looked like their best selves. When A&M got the ball back, T.J. Smith’s sack of Kellen Mond put the Aggies in a hole, from which they could only punt.
After a 32-yard punt return from Treylon Burks (welcome back, buddy!), the Hogs had excellent field position, and they would take advantage. Three plays later, backup quarterback Ben Hicks fit the ball perfectly on Mike Woods’s shoulder, and the Razorbacks gained the lead, 17-14, with less than two minutes until halftime.
Well. The lead didn’t last terribly long, as the Razorback defense would show that they contain multitudes. As good as they looked on the previous Aggie possession, they could look just as bad. When Hayden Henry bounced off of Quartney Davis on Davis’s catch-and-run into the endzone, the Razorbacks’ poor tackling made itself known and remembered.
The defense responded after the half, when they opened up by forcing an Aggie three-and-out. The offense would show its appreciation by capping an 84-yard drive with Devwah Whaley running the ball in and giving the Hogs the lead, 24-21.
After trading punts again, the Aggies looked to be in business in the Arkansas redzone, until Montaric Brown came up with an interception to preserve the lead, for a time. The Razorbacks quickly gave the ball back, though, as a third down sack forced the Hogs to punt from the back of the endzone.
With starting field position just inside Arkansas territory, A&M didn’t have far to go to get the lead back, finishing on a three-yard reception by Quartney Davis.
The Aggies wouldn’t relinquish the lead again, as the teams traded field goals on their next possessions.
The Razorbacks had one final chance to end some misery. But misery’s keeping us company a little while longer.
After the A&M game last year, everyone had some hope that maaaaaybe things were going to look up soon. That just didn’t end up happening. I know that’s kind of the wish again after seeing some signs of life, because Hogs fans are nothing if not hopeful. Let’s hope this is the time that measured optimism is rewarded.