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Aggie offense stalls in 24-17 Southwest Classic loss

Defense holds No. 11 Arkansas to three second-half points in vain

Published: Saturday, October 9, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07

ARLINGTON — The Arkansas Razorback defense forced four turnovers and helped the No. 11 Hogs end the night with a win in the 2010 Southwest Classic in front of 65,622 fans at Cowboys Stadium, 24-17, as the Aggie offensive swoon continued for a third week.

The loss puts the Aggies at 3-2 and 0-1 in the Big 12, while Arkansas improves to 4-1 (1-1 SEC) in 2010.

"We didn't [win the game]," A&M Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "Regardless of people saying  ‘Well, you played a good game.' We can't accept that because we didn't come away with a victory."

The Aggies' senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson went 15-40 through the air, accumulating 212 yards passing and one touchdown and an interception, which came on a final-second jump ball at the goal line. The pick was the fourth turnover of the night, the fourth straight week in which the offense turned the ball over four or more times.

"I thought we had some good opportunities that we didn't take advantage of," Sherman said.

Texas A&M's offense ran 74 plays, equaling Arkansas, but lost in time of possession by nearly nine minutes and was outgained by 118 yards. The Aggies went 4-17 on third down conversions. Of the 13 failed attempts, 12 came with more than five yards to go to the first down marker.

"In the second half, we had some unmanageable third downs," Sherman said. "When you're third and 15, third and 17, third and 12, it's a little bit different than third and six."

Junior wide receiver Jeff Fuller was the lone bright spot on offense, accumulating 154 yards and one touchdown on eight catches. The touchdown came on a 31-yard pass by Johnson, who found Fuller in stride down the left sideline. The reception was the 22nd touchdown catch of Fuller's career and added to his own school record.

"Jerrod did a great job of ball placement; the touchdown I scored was really him," Fuller said. "I was just doing my responsibility and he got the ball there."

Arkansas's rushing game gained 94 yards on eight carries in the first quarter, an average of 11.8 yards per carry. In the final three quarters, the Aggie defense held Arkansas to 38 yards rushing on 28 carries — for a 1.4 yards per carry average.

"Against that offense, we did a pretty good job on defense of responding to the adversity of the ball game against a very good offensive team," Sherman said. "It's not so much what we did, it's who we did it with. Last year we did it with 18 freshmen. This year those guys are sophomores."

Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallett threw for 310 yards on 38 attempts with three touchdowns and an interception. The pick, which came on the first play of Arkansas's second drive, was returned by junior cornerback Terrence Frederick to the Razorbacks' two-yard line.

"[A&M] did a good job mixing things up," Arkansas Head Coach Bobby Petrino said. "They were spinning and doing some new things they hadn't really shown. [Mallett]'s got to be able to sit there and keep his feet planted, see what's going on and do what he's been coached."

Texas A&M cashed in on the turnover on fourth down after running three plays from inside the Arkansas three-yard line. Sophomore running back Christine Michael, who tallied 18 carries for 79 yards, converted up the middle to tie the game at seven with 5:27 to play in the first quarter.

Despite totaling 766 yards of combined offense, both team's offensive units consistently failed to drum up momentum. Arkansas and Texas A&M combined for 17 punts in the contest.

"We need to convert our third downs and we need to be able to protect the quarterback and hit plays when they're open," Petrino said. "We had some plays that could have made a difference in the game and we just missed them."

The game came down to the final play, with six seconds remaining. Only senior wide receiver Terrence McCoy lined up on the left side, with the other three receivers set to the right. Johnson threw the pass to the right side, but Arkansas' junior safety Tramain Thomas pulled the ball down to end the contest.

"I knew they were trying to get it to [Fuller], so I just came in there and intercepted it," Thomas said. "I tried to knock it down against Georgia and they almost caught it, so I had it in my mindset that I was going up to get the ball."

Texas A&M heads back to College Station for their next opponent, the No. 24 Missouri Tigers. Missouri (4-0) led Colorado 19-0 in the third quarter at Faurot Field at most recent notice. Kickoff between the Aggies and Tigers is slated for 11 a.m. Saturday.

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