Arkansas tries to avoid third straight defeat

Posted at 9:17 AM, Sep 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-26 10:17:35-04

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Perhaps what one coach called a kick in the rear to Arkansas could actually benefit the Razorbacks in their SEC opener against 14th-ranked Texas A&M.

Or maybe Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury will be proven correct in his assessment of what he felt his team did to Arkansas. And what he expects to be repeated Saturday night by the Aggies (3-0), coached by his former boss Kevin Sumlin and with a similar spread offense.

Responding to what he considered Arkansas coach Bret Bielema's criticism of spread offenses during a Texas high school coaches' convention over the summer, Kingsbury said after a 35-24 win last Saturday that Bielema "just got his (butt) kicked twice in a row and probably next week by A&M as well." The Razorbacks also lost at home to Toledo the previous week.

Sumlin had little reaction this week to what Kingsbury said, but the Aggies coach said he has known both coaches for a long time. He drew laughter when he said maybe he would go to the next Texas prep convention to referee.

Bielema said he never directly called out Texas Tech's offense over the summer, and only intended to state his belief in pro-style systems like his going head-to-head against a spread team.

Well, that hasn't worked out so well the last two weeks for Arkansas (1-2).

"I really do think there is probably a blessing in disguise for our defense to have the opportunity that we did for four quarters to line up and play, execute and do the things we did well, see the things that we don't do well get exposed," Bielema said. "There couldn't be any better preparation for A&M as far as that goes."

The Aggies have won the last three games in the series, their longest winning streak against their former Southwest Conference rival since six in a row from 1938-43.

"Nothing's changed from our point of view how we view Arkansas," Sumlin said. "First game of SEC, playing where we play, it's going to be a big-time atmosphere and it's a game both of us need to win."

Here are few things to know when the Razorbacks and Aggies play at the Dallas Cowboys' NFL stadium:

SACKERS VS. BLOCKERS: Texas A&M has an FBS-best 15 quarterback sacks, including individual national leader Myles Garrett (5 1-2 sacks), who had 3 1/2 sacks last week against Nevada after having his wisdom teeth removed. Arkansas is one of five teams that hasn't allowed a sack this season.

LOST RECEIVERS: Arkansas' once-promising group of wide receivers has been decimated by recent injuries. Top wideout Keon Hatcher and backup Cody Hollister were each lost for extended periods following foot surgeries two weeks ago, and starter Jared Cornelius suffered a double fracture of his left arm last week against Texas Tech.

NEUTRAL SITE: Texas A&M was still in the Big 12 and the Cowboys' stadium was still under construction when the deal was reached for a long-term series at the neutral site. The game was played in North Texas from 2009-11, all won by Arkansas. When the Aggies joined the SEC, there were two years on campus sites before the game returned last season to the stadium, where there is a contract to play through 2024.

CATCHING KIRK: The Aggies had three returning receivers with at least 40 catches last season. But the top pass-catcher so far in 2015 is true freshman Christian Kirk (16 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns). He was the first A&M freshman with a 100-yard game in his debut, and had another one last week.

OFF AND RUNNING: The Razorbacks' all-everything offensive line struggled to run the ball the first two weeks of the season. But junior Alex Collins, now in a lead role with top running back Jonathan Williams likely out for the season following foot surgery, had 170 yards rushing against Texas Tech last week.


AP Sports Writers Kurt Voigt and Kristie Rieken contributed to this report.


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