Texas A&M Football: Winners and Losers from Week 5 Game Against Arkansas
The Texas A&M football team exorcised a lot of demons in their 58-10 demolition of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Kyle Field on Saturday. The Aggies ended an eight-game losing streak to Southeastern Conference team and a three-game losing streak to Arkansas.
The win was their first ever as a program in the SEC and their first SEC West division win. It quieted, at least for a moment, all the pundits who said that the Aggies would be overwhelmed by their SEC competition.
It was a coming-out party for freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel who broke even more records in only his fourth start at A&M. The Aggies answered a lot of questions about their offense against Arkansas.
This is a look at the winners and loser from the game against Arkansas.
Winner: The Aggies' Reputation
When Texas A&M announced that they were going to join the SEC, many people guffawed at the thought of the Aggies competing in the best conference in the country.
It did not help when the Ags gained a reputation for not being able to finish games during the 2011 season. The Aggies lost the opening game of the season against Florida after leading it 17-10 at halftime, and many said it was just the same old Aggies.
The A&M football team put an end to such talk, at least for one week, by outscoring Arkansas 31-to-0 in the second half to run away from the Razorbacks.
It was a nice moment of redemption for a program that had been unfairly stereotyped by the mainstream media.
Loser: MLB Jonathan Stewart
The Aggies spent the majority of the day in the nickel defense so Stewart spent much of his time on the sideline. He was not particularly effective when he was in the game.
The senior middle linebacker finished the game with four tackles, none of them solo, against the Razorbacks. The Aggies were unable to control Arkansas running back Knile Davis early in the game.
As the middle linebacker, it is Stewart's job to stuff the run. The Aggies were unable to do it early and trailed 10-7 after the first quarter because of their inability to stop the run.
The Aggies play Ole Miss in a week, and it will be interesting to see how much playing time Stewart sees against their spread offense.
Winner: QB Johnny Manziel
The legend of Johnny "Football" Manziel continues to grow. In just his fourth game playing college football, the redshirt freshman quarterback broke Archie Manning's 43-year-old record for the most total yardage in an SEC game.
Manning set the record in 1969 with 540 total yards against Alabama. Manziel completed 29 of 38 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for 104 yards on 14 carries and added another touchdown.
He had 557 total yards and four touchdowns on the day. Manziel is getting more and more comfortable in the offense with each passing week. The exciting thing for A&M fans has to be that Manziel has not even mastered the offense yet.
He has broken school and conference records for passing yardage and total yardage, while spending half of his snaps improvising. When he gets more comfortable in the offense and learns where to go with the ball on every play, the Aggie offense will be a sight to behold.
Loser: Aggie Defensive Line
The Aggies were held without a sack for the first time all season. Some of that was due to scheme, and some of it was due to the officials pretending that they were in the Big 12 and ignoring blatant holding by the offense line.
The Aggies' defensive line struggled early in the game as Arkansas ran all over them in the first quarter during a five play 79-yard scoring drive. Arkansas tied the score at seven behind the tough running of Knile Davis.
The Aggie coaches repeatedly tried to find a combination that would work against the Arkansas offensive line, but the Hogs continued to gash the Aggies.
The Ags shored it up later in the game, but early on the struggles of the defensive line were very concerning.
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder had the Ags playing with a three-man line for much of the game. He used multiple schemes to try to slow the Arkansas defense down. You are not going to get much pressure with three men rushing against five blockers, but the Ags need to do a better job of hurrying the quarterback.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson has a very quick release so sacks were going to be hard to come by, but the lack of consistent pressure was concerning.
Winner: Offensive Coordinator Kliff Kingsbury
The last few weeks have featured some pretty vanilla play calling for the Aggie offense. Kingsbury opened up the playbook against the Razorbacks.
He utilized the middle of the field in the passing game, got Manziel out of the pocket and on the move and effectively used his running backs. The offense looked much like what Aggie fans saw in the spring scrimmages.
The Ags had five pass completions to their running backs. They also threw over the middle to the tight end. The Aggies offense used all parts of the field. It was a well-called and well-executed gameplan by Kingsbury.
Loser: Special Teams
After setting an SEC record for punt-return yards against South Carolina State last weekend, Dustin Harris suffered a flashback to 2012 when he was hit by his own teammate after catching a punt and fumbled it.
Placekicker Taylor Bertolet missed field goals of 39 and 36 yards. He was successful on three other field goal attempts including one from 46 yards, but the misses are concerning.
The special teams have been very good so far this season. They are going to have to play at a high level if the Ags want to win more games in the SEC.
Winner: TE Nehemiah Hicks
The junior tight end from Hutto, TX, made his first real contribution of the season on Saturday. Manziel completed two passes for Hicks in the middle of the field for 26 yards.
The yardage is not as important as the fact that the Aggies are utilizing their tight ends in the passing game and utilizing the middle of the field.
Through the first three games, the tight ends have been pretty much invisible. The Ags threw the ball to the outside and mostly ignored the middle of the field. It was nice to see the offense utilize the entire field. A spread offense is toughest to defend when it is spreading the entire field and getting the ball to the open man.
Nice to see the Ags add another weapon to their arsenal and give opposing defensive coaches something to think about.
Loser: WR Brandal Jackson
The senior wide receiver from Navasota seems to have fallen out of favor with the new coaching staff. He did not see any action against Arkansas. He did not make the 105-man roster at the beginning of August and has not moved up the depth chart.
He has been passed by walk-ons. This continues an important message from the coaching staff: If you do not perform in practice, you will not play. That goes for seniors who are on scholarship since performance is the only thing that matters to this staff.
Winner: WR Thomas Johnson
The freshman wide receiver from Dallas Skyline High School had a breakout game against the Razorbacks. Johnson had five receptions for 108 yards against Arkansas.
The coaches are beginning to incorporate him more and more into the offense. Johnson is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He is proving to the coaches that he can be trusted to be an important part of the offense.
If the Aggies can get Johnson playing at a high level to go along with his fellow receivers Ryan Swope and Mike Evans, they will have a very dangerous offense.
Loser: Recruiting Rankings
Much is made of the recruiting rankings and class rankings that come out each February after signing day. A whole industry has sprouted up with so called "experts" rankings the recruits.
A&M is currently led in passing and rushing by a three-star recruit in Johnny Manziel. That means three-star recruits hold the record for the most total yardage in a game in SEC history.
Against South Carolina State, Dustin Harris set the SEC record for the most punt return yardage in a game with 246. He had zero stars when the committed to Mike Sherman. By signing day he had been awarded two stars.
Mike Evans was a three-star recruit when he signed with A&M out of Galveston Ball. He leads the Aggies with 24 receptions for 307 yards and a touchdown.
The Aggies are proving that the rankings by people who never played or coached the game do not matter once you strap the pads on.
Winner: Aggie Seniors
After the game was over, wide receiver Ryan Swope and defensive tackle Spencer Nealy remained on the field and celebrated with their teammates. They were obviously ecstatic over their first win over the Razorbacks in four attempts.
The seniors have played Arkansas four times, and have also lost to LSU, Georgia and Florida during their career. It has to be very satisfying for this group of seniors to finally silence some of their detractors and get an SEC win.
Swope had 141 yards receiving and a touchdown. Outside linebacker Sean Porter had six tackles with a tackle for loss. Safety Steven Terrell had six tackles, half a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and two interceptions. The seniors stood out in their first SEC win.
There are always going to be critics, and the next time the Aggies lose to an SEC team they are going to crawl out of the woodwork, but this blowout win had to be particularly satisfying for Swope and his classmates.