The Texas A&M Aggies are aiming to remain unbeaten but must contend with an equally motivated Arkansas squad looking to end a two-game losing streak to their Lone Star State foes.
The two square off at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 on ESPN. The last two games have gone into overtime: 35-28 in 2014 and 28-21 in 2015.
On display will be two different offensive philosophies: the Aggies (3-0, 1-0) want to implement their spread offense that utilizes short passes for big gains, while the Razorbacks (3-0, 1-0) want to average 3.3 yards per carry as they incorporate their rushing attack.
Those philosophies are apparent in the Southeastern Conference statistics.
Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight ranks third in the league with 830 passing yards, and receiver Josh Reynolds has 229 receiving yards to rank fourth. Texas A&M leads the conference in total offense with 531 yards per contest.
Razorbacks running back Rawleigh Williams, III has 354 yards to rank third in the conference. And though Williams has been solid, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said Arkansas has multiple weapons all over the field in all three units.
“Veteran football team,” he said. “Been in well coached system and one (Arkansas coach) Bret (Bielema) has believed in. Built it from ground up with philosophy that he believes is winning formula, just like it was at Wisconsin. Just like anything else when you win that breeds confidence. This team is veteran and well-coached and has philosophy that is working. Two teams with a lot of momentum playing in a great venue Saturday night. Will be a fun ball game.”
And though the Aggies have been solid in the passing game, Sumlin hinted the Aggies will run the football because of the work of running backs Trayveon Williams, James White, Keith Ford and the others. Williams has game-changing speed, and White has the ability to get to the first down marker by moving the pile.
One reason Knight might be doing so well, Sumlin said, is because the quarterback is taking advantage of a second opportunity since he transferred from Oklahoma after being the starting quarterback then losing the job.
“We have made effort to try and eliminate bad football,” the coach said. “He wants to be great. He filled void for us not just as quarterback but as a guy who’d played the position in big games and understood it. So when you walk into Auburn that’s not a shock. Be able to handle crowd noise and other things and change plays. Second chance to show what he can do on big stage. Lot of people don’t get that chance. He’s happy about it and we happy about it. Perfect? No. But he’s been tremendous teammate, great leader for football team. Not easy to do coming in January. Working at it to be best quarterback he can be. Way he approaches it right now with open mind and way he’s able to communicate gives him opportunity to eliminate some of the football that created situation that lost him his job.”
The Texas A&M defense got the job done against Auburn, and Sumlin said the way that unit is playing affects the Aggies offensive play calling.
“When defense is solid as it has been you can manage game little bit differently,” he said. “Every game won’t be like that. But certainly was different look for us last week.”
During the win against Auburn, the Aggies were 2 of 15 on third down. Sumlin said the solution is simple — practice. He noted they had several issues, especially in the red zone that included high passes, dropped passes and a back going the wrong direction.
“Those are high-pressure situations particularly on road,” he said. “Usually that’s the loudest down. Got to be more comfortable in that situation. That was great experience for our guys. More than just plays, it’s players, it’s everybody. Only way to get better is practice.”
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