Texas A&M football: Grading the Aggies' victory over Arkansas
It wasn’t easy on Saturday, but it never is when Texas A&M and Arkansas get together at AT&T Stadium. At a time when the Aggies were desperate for a win, they’ll take a 31-27 victory regardless of how sloppily played.
Bottom line is, the Aggies won, and there were at least a handful of positives to take away from it. Here are five things I liked about the victory and another three things I didn’t like about it.
Things I liked
1. TD drive before the half
After losing all the momentum, the Aggies could have easily limped into halftime having blown a 14-3 lead. But they didn’t. They battled back with their best drive of the game and made a statement. Kellen Mond completed five passes for 66 yards during an 11-play, 75-yard march, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Quartney Davis. Most impressively, the touchdown drive took just 1:47, leaving the Hogs with just eight ticks left before halftime.
The lead changed hands four times. Each time Arkansas took a lead, Texas A&M answered back, once in the aforementioned drive just before halftime, then again early in the fourth quarter after Arkansas took a 24-21 lead. Mond threw his third and final touchdown pass, then Seth Small added a field goal for good measure.
3. Third-down conversions
The Aggies were 50 percent (5-of-10) on third-down plays. Keeping drives alive was key in this close game. Not only did it allow the Aggies to continue scoring drives, it enabled them to control the football and win time of possession by more than 5 minutes.
4. Turn to the run game after Mond’s INT
This was key. After Mond threw an interception, the Aggies got the ball back late in the third quarter and went to the running game with much success. Not only did this help to calm down Mond. it also pounded on the Arkansas defense. Five consecutive run plays produced 34 yards, including Mond’s 11-yard dash. A more settled Mond proceeded to complete three straight passes to get the Aggies in the end zone and give them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
5. Finding a way
The Aggies found a way to win. Arkansas played its best game of the year and certainly didn’t look like a team that hasn’t won a conference game in more than a year. But Texas A&M took Arkansas’ best punch and remained standing. Whether it was Mond’s 251 yards passing or a defense that limited the Hogs to 5-of-13 on third-down conversions, the team found a way to come out the victors.
Things I didn’t like
1. Containment on the edges
It’s an area that Auburn was able to take advantage of a week earlier. Arkansas was successful on chunk yardage plays to the edge and on misdirection. It’s a recurring problem that the Aggies must clean up against the better SEC teams.
2. Taking care of the football
Three fumbles (one lost) and an interception will get you beat against the better SEC competition. It nearly cost the Aggies on Saturday. Arkansas scooped and scored on one turnover, and the other cost the Aggies potential points. Fortunately, the Aggies were able to overcome them and leave AT&T Stadium on the winning side.
3. Mond’s decision-making
Still forcing things, still locked in on his receiver. We won’t even talk about the botched handoff that resulted in an Arkansas scoop-and-score. It’s a real head-scratcher. Mond can look very good at times and then toss up an interception at the goal line. Consistency is what the Aggies are most in need of from their leader.