Sunday September 27th, 2015

In his second game against a Texas school in as many weeks, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema came closer to “kicking ass” against a spread offense like he promised at the Texas High School Coaching and Convention School this summer. Unfortunately his team imploded in the pivotal moments against Texas A&M.

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Despite a disciplined defensive performance and 151 yards rushing from star running back Alex Collins, Arkansas fell to 1–3 in a heartwrenching, 28–21 overtime loss at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Quarterback Brandon Allen fumbled the ball on the potential game-winning drive in the fourth quarter and missed a fourth-down throw in overtime to send the Razorbacks to their third defeat in four games. It was the second consecutive year the teams needed overtime to settle their newfound SEC rivalry, and the second time Texas A&M prevailed despite a slow start.

Aggies quarterback Kyle Allen finished with 358 yards passing, thanks primarily to the stunning play of freshman wide receiver Christian Kirk, who finished with 173 yards receiving and two touchdowns (including a game-winning 20-yard haul in overtime). Three weeks after electrifying the nation with 224 total yards and two touchdowns (including a punt return) in his first collegiate game against Arizona State, Kirk finished with 255 yards against the Razorbacks and solidified his early candidacy for All-America honors as a true freshman.

Arkansas’s physical front seven mitigated any serious damage in the first half, but Texas A&M showcased a host of weapons (Kirk, Josh Reynolds, Tra Carson) that should keep most SEC defenses on their heels throughout the course of the season. Dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray appeared for a handful of designed quarterback runs, but the Aggies appear to have settled on Allen, a more traditional pocket passer, to guide the offense. With the aforementioned playmakers plus a versatile possession receiver in Ricky Seals-Jones, coach Kevin Sumlin’s offense looks like one of the nation’s most dangerous.

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Arkansas, meanwhile, played probably its most efficient and effective game of the season, but remains on the second tier of the SEC in Bielema’s critical third year at the helm. Collins anchored an impressive offensive performance (the Razorbacks outgained A&M 457-423 and held the ball for almost twice as long), but Arkansas couldn’t find the late score needed to seal the game.

The result is yet another bitter one for Bielema, always visible and outspoken, as his team’s bowl aspirations are now in serious danger. A preseason darling in the eyes of many national outlets, the Razorbacks travel to two hostile environments (Tennessee and No. 12 Alabama) for their next two games. Few would have expected Arkansas to enter a potential Oct. 24 showdown with Auburn in Fayetteville at 1–5, but Saturday’s loss casts doubts about what the Razorbacks can achieve this season.

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