Ground game, defense carries SW Classic
Bill Smith, ArkansasRazorbacks.com
ARLINGTON, Texas — On a day with great Arkansas offense, it was the Razorback defense that came up with the big plays at the end as 11th-ranked University of Arkansas won its second straight Southwest Classic, defeating Texas A&M, 24-17.
The win ups the Razorbacks to 4-1 overall and drops TAMU to 3-2.
Using a running game that racked up one of its best performances of the year and saw three players get season highs, Arkansas held off a furious comeback attempt by the Aggies with defense and clock management.
Burning off precious seconds on the final two drives of the afternoon with a strong running game, the Razorbacks left the Aggies less than a minute to try and tie the game on a final drive.
With little time to operate, A&M went for the endzone with six seconds left, only to give up its fourth turnover of the day.
Junior quarterback Ryan Mallett turned in his fifth 300-yard game of the year, tying his own UA season record from last year, and finsihed with 27-of-38 and three touchdown strikes for 310 yards in the air.
Knile Davis led Arkansas with 82 yards rushing, followed by Broderick Green with 58.
After a first half filled with offense, defense took over in the second as the two teams combined for just two field goals.
Zach Hocker’s 39-yarder with 5:04 left in the third quarter was the last points for either team.
Razorbacks dominated the first half, doubling the Aggies for yardage with 317 to just 153 for TAMU. Penalties and kicking game miscues costs the Razorbacks the chance for a commanding halftime lead.
Arkansas took the opening kickoff and drove the length of the field, using a strong running game for 53 of the first 80 yards of the game before Mallett finished the drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Joe Adams.
The Razorbacks held the Aggies on their first drive, but it was for naught as Mallett threw an interception to Terrence Frederick. Frederick returned it to the Razorback two, but it took all four downs for the Aggies to tie it on a 1-yard run by Christine Michael.
Mallett wasted no time atoning for his mistake, hitting Cobi Hamilton for a 71-yard touchdown pass on the next Arkansas drive. The junior quarterback’s play fake froze the defense, then he lofted it over the TAMU defense to Hamilton. With the defensive back stumbling at the 15, it allowed Hamilton to literally walk into the endzone for the second touchdown of the day.
For the first quarter, Arkansas has 94 yards on the ground. A&M came into the game allowing 68 yards. Three different Razorbacks have had their longest run of the year in the first quarter also.
The Razorbacks picked up two first half turnovers from A&M, but two of them ended with field goal attempts. Hocker missed his first attempt of the year, a 49-yarder, then a missed pitch from holder Austin Tucker to Hocker on a fake attempt resulted in a lost fumble.
Mallett closed the half with another lightning drive, marching 57-yards on five plays in 63 seconds, going the final six yards to a wide-open Ben Cleveland over the middle.
Johnson engineered his own speed drive, rushing 14 yards for a first down to set up a 31-yard touchdown strike with eight seconds left on the clock to Fuller.
The Aggies took the second half kickoff down the field for a 38-yard field goal from Randy Bullock to cut the margin to four, 21-17, and 10 unanswered points.
For the game, Arkansas rushed for 131 yards, more yards than the ground-defensive powerhouse TAMU had given up all year.