Rapid Reaction: Wild TD, missed kick help Texas A&M hold on for win over No. 10 Arkansas
Resilient Texas A&M earned a huge 23-21 victory over No. 10 Arkansas on Saturday at Jerry World in the 79th meeting between former Southwest Conference foes. The Southwest Classic came down to a crazy touchdown that changed everything and veteran quarterback Max Johnson, the LSU transfer making just his 2nd start for Texas A&M, distributing the football to his playmakers over the final 3 quarters.
It also came down to a final kick: Arkansas’ Cam Little had a chance to put the Hogs ahead, but his 42-yard field goal try hit the upright with 1:30 left in the game.
The key play was Texas A&M’s fumble recovery, that turned into a 97-yard touchdown return.
It may have been a costly victory. Ainias Smith, at the top of the list of Aggies’ playmakers, had his right ankle rolled up late in the 3rd quarter. He was helped off the field and did not return, watching the remainder of the game on the sideline in a boot and on crutches. He was shown huddling with his father on the sideline.
Johnson led No. 23 Texas A&M, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 in SEC play, to a go-ahead touchdown drive that opened the 2nd half. He drove the Aggies 70 yards in 6 plays to erase a 14-0 deficit and take a 20-14 lead. After being dominated for most of the first half, Johnson and the Aggies kept their composure and methodically made up the difference. They took the lead when Johnson completed a 26-yard pass to Donovan Green that set up a 9-yard go-ahead TD run by Devon Achane.
Randy Bond added a 31-yard field goal to extend the Aggies’ lead to 23-14 entering the 4th quarter.
Johnson stole the spotlight from multi-talented Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson. It’s with his feet that defenses generally fear and gameplan for, but Arkansas’ multi-talented junior QB showcased his rocket arm early in the game to give the Razorbacks the early advantage.
Jefferson threw touchdown passes of 32 and 56 yards to Ketron Jackson Jr. and Warren Thompson, respectively, to give the Hogs (3-1, 1-1) a 14-0 lead before the Aggies were able to gain a first down.
That’s not to say that Jefferson didn’t use his legs. He ripped off a 26-yard run to set up Arkansas’ first score.
He refused to give in when the Hogs needed him most, engineering a 13-play, 74-yard drive, scoring on a 6-yard run to pull the Hogs to within 23-21 with 10:05 to play.
The Aggies didn’t gain a first down until early in the 2nd quarter when Achane galloped 63 yards to highlight a 6-play, 93-yard touchdown drive. Max Johnson threw 10 yards to freshman Evan Stewart to get the Aggies on the scoreboard and cut the Arkansas lead to 14-7.
Jefferson tried to do a little too much on what appeared to be a certain touchdown drive late in the 2nd quarter, and the momentum turned on that play. Diving over the pile on first-and-goal at the Aggies’ 3-yard line, Jefferson had the ball punched out by Texas A&M LB Chris Russell, Jr. and Tyreek Chappell scooped it up. The Aggies’ DB returned it to the 20 and then lateraled to Demani Richardson, who completed the spectacular 97-yard scoop-and-score.
The potential game-tying PAT kick attempt failed, leaving Arkansas clinging to a 14-13 lead at halftime after controlling the first 2 quarters.