Rapid Reaction: Texas A&M holds off Arkansas
Regardless of the coaches involved or the state of the respective programs, when Arkansas and Texas A&M get together at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, a close game ensues.
Coming into their showdown on Saturday, the Aggies had won all seven previous meetings since joining the SEC, the longest win streak for Texas A&M in the 76-game history of the series. But it hasn’t been easy. Three of the previous five meetings had gone to overtime, and six of the last nine were decided by a touchdown or less.
So it should have come as no surprise that this one went down to the wire as well with Texas A&M holding on for a 31-27 victory in a battle of 2-2 SEC West foes desperately needing a win.
Kellen Mond tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Quartney Davis early in the fourth quarter to give the Aggies a 28-24 lead. The teams traded field goals with Arkansas kicker Connor Limpert hitting a 40-yarder before Aggies kicker Seth Small answered with a 50-yarder of his own and a 31-27 advantage with 3:52 remaining.
Nick Starkel, starting just his second game at Arkansas, was injured late in the second quarter while making a tackle after throwing an interception to Justin Madubuike at the Aggies’ goal line. Starkel was carted off the field with an injury to his left (non-throwing) arm and did not return. Starkel played 11 games for Texas A&M before transferring to Arkansas.
Ben Hicks, who lost the starting job to Starkel, replaced the injured quarterback and drove the Razorbacks on consecutive touchdown drives — one to end the first half, and the other to start the second.
Hicks’ back-shouldered 13-yard touchdown pass to Mike Woods gave the Razorbacks their first lead, 17-14. Then the Hogs, who trailed 21-17 at halftime, had a go-ahead touchdown drive on the first possession of the second half. Hicks completed his first five passes, including a 13-yarder to Treylon Burks, that set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Devwah Whaley, and a 24-21 lead that held up into the fourth quarter.
Hicks helped Arkansas complete a 180-degree swing in the second quarter. The Aggies looked to have it going their way, maintaining a 14-3 lead following the Starkel interception. But on the next play, Mond fumbled a handoff to freshman RB Isaiah Spiller and Arkansas’ DeJon Harris scooped and scored to make it a 14-10 game.
The Aggies then went 3-and-out and a 32-yard punt return by Burks gave Hicks and the Hogs excellent field position.
But the wild second quarter wasn’t over. Mond led a two-minute offense that covered 75 yards in 11 plays and a touchdown as the Aggies regained the lead, 21-17, at halftime. It was the third drive of the first half in which Mond efficiently drove the Aggies to paydirt.
In this one, Mond threw for 66 yards (5-for-9), including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Quartney Davis to give the Aggies the lead.
Mond and the Aggies scored first after Arkansas came up empty, missing a long missed field goal after an impressive opening drive (7 plays, 41 yards). The Aggies’ QB completed all five pass attempts, for 45 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ainias Smith completing a 7-play, 63-yard drive, and Texas A&M grabbed a 7-0 lead after one quarter.
It was Mond’s 40th career touchdown pass. He is the eighth Aggie to accomplish the feat.
Arkansas got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter, converting a 10-play, 47-yard drive into 3 points on Limpert’s 46-yard field goal. The Razorbacks had success on the edge and with misdirection but found little running room in the middle of the Aggies’ defensive front.
Mond answered, directing an 10-play, 77-yard drive to give the Aggies a 14-3 lead. He threw for 61 yards (3-for-6) during the march and Spiller scored the touchdown on a 4-yard run.