The Arkansas No.16 physically intimidated the Texas A&M No.7 in a 20-10 game, beating his rival for the first time since joining the SEC in 2012. The Razorbacks defense won the day, keeping the Aggies offensive to just 272 total yards and handing them their first loss since Oct. 3, 2020, to Alabama.
The win marks the second victory over an Arkansas-ranked opponent this season, which might be enough to put him in the top 10 in college football rankings on Sunday after a blistering start to the game.
Arkansas outscored a Texas A&M team that struggled offensively in each of their first three encounters, including a narrow 10-7 win over poor Colorado team. The Razorbacks have sacked quarterback Zach Calzada three times, lobbied him eight times, and registered nine tackles for a loss despite rarely bringing additional pressure.
Razorbacks starting QB KJ Jefferson threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns before being eliminated for a stretch with an apparent knee injury in the third quarter. Substitute Malik Hornsby only made one pass, but he did enough to keep the attack going. Wide receiver Treylon Burks had one of the best games of his career scoring 167 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown that opened the game.
Texas A&M walks away with more questions than answers after the offense collected just 4.6 yards per game against the Arkansas physical defense line. Running back Isaiah Spiller did his best with 95 rushing yards and 26 receiving yards, but Calzada could hardly do more than dink and dunk. Calzada completed 20 of 36 passes for 151 yards, but only one of his passes exceeded 20 yards.
Arkansas faces one of the SEC’s toughest schedules, with No.2 Georgia, No.13 Ole Miss and No.23 Auburn in the weeks ahead. So far, Coach Sam Pittman’s team have passed all tests with flying colors.
CBS Sports was with you throughout updating this story with the latest in the game. Here’s what we learned from today’s game.
1. Arkansas is in the top 10
Few college football teams have faced such a dangerous path in the first month as the Razorbacks. With Texas and Texas A&M already in the rearview mirror, any projection would have assumed Arkansas was 2-2 at this point. However, development in the trenches under Pittman was no joke. Arkansas’ success can be attributed to this team’s talent in the trenches. Defense can take it out on opposing quarterbacks with just three rushers, and even when Jefferson came out with an injury, the offensive line play was impressive enough that Hornsby kept the Razorbacks’ offense in motion.
Seeing Texas roughing up their first Big 12 competition bodes well for how Arkansas could compete with the top SEC opponents on the way. Everything is turning Hogs.
2. Repetition is difficult
The assumption around Texas A&M before 2021 was that Aggies would have a chance of competing with Alabama for the SEC West title if they could just replace some parts at the quarterback level and along the offensive line. Well, just like many other suitors, they are learning the hard way that you can’t assume development is coming.
The quarterback problems are obvious. Calzada was pushed into action following Haynes King’s injury and failed to complete 60% of his passes in both of his starts. What is much more concerning, however, is that the Aggies were forced to use a pair of real freshmen on the offensive line due to injuries.
Texas A&M’s defense is legitimately excellent, but there’s little a single unit can do to deliver a struggling attack. Even having great players like Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane can’t make the game easy.
3. KJ Jefferson deserves respect
Arkansas only threw the ball 19 times, including 15 from Jefferson. But while his numbers are modest, Jefferson’s impact on the game was noticeable.
The first-year starter completed 7 of 15 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed for 50 more yards. But while his overtaking attempts were kept to a minimum, they were precise and delivered with consistency. His long strike against Burks against sixth-year DB Myles Jones was a thing of the past.
Arkansas is going to be an ugly team that beats their opponents in the trenches, just like any offensive line coach turned head coach would. Jefferson’s precision fits the Arkansas system perfectly. The Razorbacks don’t win this game without him.
4. Texas A&M must make the game easier
With all this talent on offense, it’s frustrating to see the Aggies have such constant offensive issues. Even with a great offensive line and a Kellen Mond quarterback last season, top notch wide receivers have often been left on an island to create opportunities against solid DBs.
It might not be in Jimbo Fisher’s DNA, but he needs to find ways to make the game easier for the outdated Calzada. His pocket-maneuvering discomfort is evident, especially with the way Texas A&M struggled on the offensive line. If he fails to find ways to generate easy reads for Calzada, the offensive issues will only get worse.
5. Arkansas needed this game
Even with this blazing start, the Razorbacks could be underdogs in the majority of games for the remainder of the season. Choosing one of these top 10 teams takes a huge amount of pressure off Pittman’s shoulders. Now Arkansas is entering its nightmare from a position of strength. And, who knows, no team has been indifferent so far. Winning like this means Arkansas is still playing with the house money.