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Hogs fall short against Aggies

Razorback junior quarterback KJ Jefferson (#1) from Sardis, MS runs for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Texas A&M Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.

By Otis Kirk

ARLINGTON, Texas — No. 10 Arkansas jumped out to a 14-0 lead against No. 23 Texas A&M in the first quarter and appeared headed for its fourth win, but then some questionable decisions plus a turnover and missed field goal allowed the Aggies to take a 23-21 win.

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“Well, that was a tough one,” Sam Pittman said. “Give A&M all the credit in the world. You know, they fought back from 14 down. And, you know, had a couple big plays in there, a big run, and then certainly a big fumble and the recovery.

“But I was proud of our kids. I thought we fought back in the 4th quarter. We had a chance to win there at the end. Just, unfortunately, we didn’t. But give A&M credit. They came in. They were physical. They were well coached. Max Johnson made enough plays. And their offensive line blocked well in the run.”

The Hogs have dominated the fourth quarter the past two weeks and appeared set to be in position to take a win over the Aggies. Texas A&M missed a 53-yard field goal attempt with 6:30 remaining in the game.

The Razorbacks took over at their own 36 and many felt another winning drive was set to take place. Arkansas took nine plays to move to the Aggies 23 where they faced a fourth-and-12 play. Little came on to attempt a 43-yard field goal that he pushed to the right. It hit the top of the upright and bounced back to allow A&M to get the ball back with 1:35 remaining and run out the clock. Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0) opened SEC play with the win.

“He just pushed it a little bit,” Pittman said. “Didn’t hit it real well, just pushed it a little bit and hit, obviously, the top of the goal posts. After the game, I told him that he’s won a lot of games for us and he’ll win a lot more.”

Jadon Haselwood led the Hogs with five catches for 56 yards with a long of 16. Haselwood in his first season since transferring in from Oklahoma has become a leader. He talked about what he told Little following the missed field goal.

“I told him — well, first of all, he came in with his head down, and I lift his head up,” Haselwood said. “There was a lot of stuff that led up to the game; it wasn’t all him. We left plays on the field. I left plays on the field. So it’s not his fault. I mean, the game shouldn’t been in his hands anyway because we’re supposed to handle business.”

Linebacker Bumper Pool is also one of the leaders of the team. He too talked about Little’s missed field goal.

“We all committed plays that forced that situation,” Pool said. “Cam [Little]’s won a lot of games for us. So just part of the game. I’ve never seen that kind of bounce. But yeah, we’re going to love him up, move on. Cam’s a great kid, and he’ll bounce back.”

Arkansas (3-1, 1-1) got on the scoreboard on its second possession when KJ Jefferson found Ketron Jackson for a 32-yard touchdown with 9:44 remaining in the first quarter. The drive was five plays and covered 69 yards taking on one minute, 43 seconds.

On its next possession, Jefferson found a wide open Warren Thompson for a 56-yard touchdown to take a 14-0 lead with 5:25 remaining in the opening period. Little added the PAT on both touchdowns.

To start the second quarter Arkansas had the ball facing a third and four at its own 21. Jefferson scrambled for 14 yards and a first down. This series had started at the Arkansas 15 following another three-and-out sequence for the Aggies. This series marked the debut of running back Dominique Johnson. His first carry was for only one yard. But then he had runs of 12, eight and seven yards to give Arkansas the football a first down at the Texas A&M 38.

It appeared the Hogs were on the verge of going up 21-0, but with first down at the Aggies 38 Arkansas went away from Johnson. They inserted Malik Hornsby at receiver. On first down, Jefferson threw incomplete to Hornsby. On second down Hornsby lost one yard. He was held to no yards on third down. Max Fletcher had to punt.

The Aggies quickly turned the momentum following that series. Running back Devon Achane raced 63 yards on the first play of the drive to take the ball from his own seven to the Arkansas 30. Max Johnson threw a 10-yard pass to Evan Stewart to get the Aggies on the scoreboard. It was a six-play, 93 yard-drive. Randy Bond added the point after touchdown to pull within 14-7 with 8:45 remaining in the first half.

Pool led the Hogs with seven tackles. The defense played better on Saturday. Johnson completed 11 of 21 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. He rushed 13 times for 39 yards.

“I thought he did enough to win the game,” Pool said. “He’s a good player. He never panicked. He never — third down or something, he made a big throw. And they just kind of kept those plays going all game. But credit to him, he did a really good job.”

Arkansas then went on a drive of its own. The Hogs drove from their own 25 to the Texas A&M three. They had a mixture of running plays by Jefferson and Rocket Sanders to go with 12- and 16-yard passes to Jadon Haselwood. But on first down, Jefferson tried to jump from the three and stuck the ball out. The fumble was caused by Chris Russell Jr, recovered by Tyreek Chappell who returned it to his own 18. At the 18, Chappell handed the ball back to Demani Richardson who scampered 82 yards for a touchdown. The PAT snap wasn’t good and the Aggies had to try to run it in which the Hogs denied. Arkansas led 14-13 with 3:11 remaining in the first half.

“You know, I mean, it was a huge play, obviously. It went from 21-7 to 14-13,” Pittman said. “It was first down too. You know, we had a list of things. It was a huge play in the game. Unfortunately, it happened to us. But, you know, we can’t do that on first down, you know. If it was fourth down, that’s a different story. Unfortunately, it just got popped out.”

Jefferson finished the game as the leading rusher with 18 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown. He also completed 12 of 19 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. He talked about the fumble.

“They just made a great play on the ball. I needed to be more aggressive and go down to the goal line and just finish the play,” Jefferson said.

The Aggies took the lead for the first time on its first series of the second half. They went 70 yards in six plays with Achane covering the final nine yards for a 20-14 advantage. On its next series, Bond added a 31-yard field goal with 3:48 remaining in the third quarter to put the Aggies up 23-14.

Arkansas fought back on its first drive of the fourth quarter. Jefferson led the Hogs on a 13-play, 74-yard drive with him running it in from the six. That pulled the Hogs to within 23-21 with 10:05 remaining in the game. At that point, many of the 63,580 fans felt the Hogs were likely to be on verge of another comeback.

On the drive for the touchdown, Arkansas got good runs from AJ Green, an 18-yard pass from Jefferson to tight end Trey Knox, 19-yard pass to Haselwood and some nice gains on the ground from Sanders and Jefferson.

That set up for the ending where both teams missed field goals. Arkansas will return home to host No. 2 Alabama at 2:30 p.m. on CBS Saturday.

“We’re already on Alabama mentally,” Pool said. “We’ll obviously need to clean up things from the tape. But I thought the team, we fought hard. We needed to make stops; we made stops. We got the offense tracking on the field to give us a shot to win. There’s a lot of positives, I think, with the resilience of the team. But just too many errors. And when you play in the SEC, one play, two plays, they’re the difference between a win and loss.”

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