On Saturday, Sept. 25, No. 7 Texas A&M football lost to No. 16 Arkansas for the first time in 10 years. The upset comes after a questionable start to the season for A&M that, despite working to build a 3-0 record, showcased many vulnerabilities which the Razorbacks capitalized upon.
Here are five takeaways from the 20-10 loss:
Win streak collapses
Since an upset over Florida in early October of 2020, A&M built an 11-game winning streak. With the loss to Arkansas that also ends a 9-game streak against the Razorbacks, the wind has left the Aggies’ sails. The graduation of 4-of-5 members of 2020′s offensive line unit and quarterback Kellen Mond has been a noticeable thorn in the heel of the maroon and white through the season, but it took a higher caliber opponent to expose them. Enter a significantly improved Arkansas squad hungry for its second upset of 2021 and the Aggies have to readjust to the feeling of a loss.
“It’s not good, but it’s a learning curve,” junior running back Isaiah Spiller said. “I feel like we got to learn from it, keep moving forward. We can’t ponder on it too long. Arkansas did a great job today, played better than us. So we’ve just got to come out Monday and be more focused.”
Now having played the majority of three games for A&M, Calzada has been notably mediocre. Completing only 20 of 36 passes for 151 yards and one interception against the Razorbacks, A&M needs to diagnose Calzada’s issues or a downward spiral may be imminent.
“I mean, [I won’t know the problem] until I see the film,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “What you saw there and what you see on film could be two different things.”
Calzada’s completion percentage now sits at a measly 52.7 percent for 609 yards and three interceptions over the three games. Calzada has shown his merits in extending plays with his feet, but he has often failed to deliver accurate balls or make timely reads.
A&M halftime adjustments
As has been the case in A&M’s first three games, the Aggies offense couldn’t find any solid footing in the first half against Arkansas. A&M only produced 134 total yards in the half despite holding the ball for 19 minutes and six seconds. To make matters worse, the maroon and white allowed 17 points in the two quarters (just three points shy of the total allowed all season).
“When they were scoring hot, [it] was important for us to at least match,” Fisher said. “Whether it was field goals, touchdowns or something, in those first two drives, I thought [it] was very important. We didn’t do that. We stalled and then we got the drive before the half. Off to the second half.”
The second half yielded better results for the Aggies as they only allowed 3 points while scoring 10 of their own. A&M’s trend of slow starts had been creating avoidable circumstances in unnecessary situations and was finally exposed by the Hogs.
‘Self inflicted wounds’
Throughout the game, A&M had 11 penalties called against the team for 75 yards. With the offensive game running at just 4.6 per play, penalties caused by a lack of discipline or inexperience kill drives.
“I would just say honestly that we had self-inflicted wounds and it was nothing that [Arkansas] did better,” junior defensive end DeMarvin Leal said. “It was just execution-wise, we have to get back to grabbing every little crumb throughout the game, and just taking it, like tackling and all that stuff. Just taking it a little bit more serious — a lot more serious, actually, and just getting after it next week.”
Special teams success
While most of the Aggies’ game can be summarized as underwhelming, sophomore punter Nik Constantinou’s — and the rest of A&M’s special teams units’ — performance was stellar. The Melbourne, Australia native averaged 45.8 yards per punt, downing 5-of-8 within the 20.
Senior Kicker Seth Small also drilled a 49-yard field goal just before halftime and made his one extra point attempt in the game. When a team’s offense isn’t firing on all cylinders, Fisher said the team needs to lean on special teams success.
“We had momentum in the middle of the third quarter that we thought we could have kept going with,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to learn to feed on that. But those guys are doing really nice — again, Nik worked his tail off. Seth worked his tail off. Caden [Davis] kicking off. We have very talented legs on our team, no doubt.”