Things were never easy for No. 10 Texas A&M on the road against unranked Arkansas, but the Aggies did enough to escape Razorback Stadium with a 45-33 victory.
While Texas A&M is usually known for its passing attack led by Johnny Manziel, it was the ground game that led the offense in this one. On a rainy day, the squad combined for 262 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 44 attempts.
Arkansas was able to stay in the game, though, with a great effort offensively as well. The Razorbacks totaled 483 yards from scrimmage in the loss, behind freshman running back Alex Collins' 116 rushing yards and a score.
Still, Manziel was as good as advertised while totaling 261 passing yards and 59 more on the ground in a winning effort. The quarterback showcased his full arsenal with a touchdown pass to Mike Evans on the first drive of the game.
After a number of big plays on both sides, Manziel found his favorite receiver once again in the end zone in the second quarter to make it 24-10.
As SportsCenter noted, this is a connection that has been working all year long:
Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans like peanut butter and jelly! Hook up for 2nd TD of game, A&M leads Arkansas 24-10 early in 2nd. #TAMUvsARK— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 29, 2013
Evans landed awkwardly on that play and injured his right leg, but he returned later in the game.
Still, the Aggies' biggest concern was the inability to make any stops on defense. Mark Passwaters of Rivals.com made this observation early on:
If you're #TAMU, you have to like the effort against the run. The pass? Not so much. That's really bad.— Mark Passwaters (@themarkup) September 28, 2013
The Razorbacks kept moving the ball and narrowed the score to 24-20 at halftime. They then followed a Texas A&M defensive touchdown in the opening minute of the second half with another long drive to make it 31-27 early in the third quarter.
After the two traded scores once again to make it 38-33, the Aggies started pounding the ball inside to take control of the game. Trey Williams, Ben Malena and others consistently moved the chains and helped put the score out of reach.
Travis Haney of ESPN questioned the Texas A&M defense:
So A&M is going to have to score 40 every week, huh?— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) September 29, 2013
However, this statistic proves that scoring is the least of the Aggies' worries:
Until an opposing defense finds a way to stop this attack, it is clear that Kevin Sumlin's squad will have a chance to win any game this year.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: A-
Another week, another incredible game for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. He extended plays with his legs, and he found his targets down the field, eating up big chunks of yardage.
Announcer Brock Huard offered an interesting comparison to the quarterback, via Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports:
Brock Huard on Manziel (w video of him slinging it) "He's Brett Favre w/o the arm strength and a whole lot more speed."— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) September 29, 2013
While these players have very different skill sets, they both seem to have the same fearless attitude on the field.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M: A
Once again, Evans proved that he is a huge part of the Texas A&M offense and one of the best receivers in the country.
The big target caught six passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns, including a couple of passes snatched out of the air that few others could have handled. He remains a safety net for Manziel when the quarterback gets into trouble, and the offense is much better when he is on the field.
Hopefully, a week off will help Evans get healthy after a scare in the first half.
Brandon Allen, Arkansas: B+
The Arkansas quarterback made a few poor mistakes, including the pick-six at the start of the second half, but Brandon Allen was quite impressive otherwise.
He passed for 282 yards and three touchdowns while keeping his team in the game as long as possible.
After showing some potential to start the season, it is clear that the sophomore is ready to lead this squad to great heights in the future.
Alex Collins, Arkansas: A+
A year after Manziel took the country by storm as a redshirt freshman, Alex Collins is making a name for himself as a true freshman.
The running back entered the day with 481 rushing yards through four games, and he was just as good as advertised against Texas A&M on Saturday. He only had 13 carries, but still tallied 116 rushing yards and a touchdown.
With a great mix of size and speed, the young player has the potential to be something special at this level.
Both teams will look to remain competitive in the incredibly tough SEC West with another set of conference games.
Texas A&M gets a much-needed week off before returning to action on Oct. 12 with a road game at Ole Miss. Arkansas will also be on the road at Florida on Oct. 5.