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Dr. Saturday

Texas A&M rolls up big stats, then rolls over in another second half flop

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 38.
Sorry, A&M fans, but we might as well get it out of the way…

• "Ladies and gentlemen, your Texas A&M Fightin' Gaggies."
• "I hear they just changed the lyrics to the fight song to 'Hullabaloo, Ca-Choke, Ca-Choke."
• "Looks like the 'ATM' on the helmet stands for 'About To Melt Down.' "
• "Didja here? Yell Practice has been replaced by Choke Practice."
• "Gag 'em, Aggies!"

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Two weeks, two three-score leads over ranked opponents at the half, two epic meltdowns. If blowing a 20-3 lead over Oklahoma State last Saturday was a kick to the stomach, blowing a 35-17 advantage over Arkansas is a slap to the face. How do you manage to rack up 628 yards of total offense with 32 first downs and a career day from your star tailbacks (between them, Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray ripped the Razorbacks for 335 yards and five touchdowns) and still manage to come away feeling like your season is hanging by a thread?

One way is to virtually ignore the opposing team's wide receivers. As often as the Aggies hit Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson — and that was a lot, seemingly every time he dropped back to throw, including five sacks — they did nothing to stop Razorback receivers from roaming free through the secondary. Wilson hit nine different targets for 509 yards, most of them in the direction of Jarius Wright en route to a school-record 281 yards on 13 catches. On Arkansas' five touchdown drives, Wilson passed 29 times for 360 yards, including sacks; on those same drives, the Razorbacks ran eight times for 49 yards, including two short touchdown runs inside the A&M three-yard line. On two of them, Wilson dropped back on every single play. The Aggies consistently brought the heat, and — just like last week — still kept getting burned.

Another way is to blow opportunities.{YSP:MORE} A&M punted on four separate trips inside Arkansas territory, fumbled on another and settled for a field goal after taking up nearly half the fourth quarter to drive inside the Razorback ten. In the third quarter, leading 35-20 and facing a 4th-and-2 at the Arkansas 39, with a running game that hadn't been stopped, the Aggies took a penalty and punted for a net of 14 yards; Arkansas scored less than three minutes later to cut the lead to 35-27. In the fourth quarter, facing 4th-and-1 at midfield, with a running game that hadn't been stopped, the Aggies punted for a net of 37 yards; Arkansas scored less than two minutes later to tie. Later in the fourth, facing another 4-and-2 from the Arkansas six-yard line with the score still tied at 35, the Aggies opted for a field goal to go up by three; Arkansas scored less than three minutes later to go ahead for good.

Last week, after rolling up 20 points in the first half against Oklahoma State, A&M managed a single touchdown in the second, a too-little/too-late score in the fourth quarter. This week, after rolling up 35 points in the first half, it managed only the field goal in the second, also too-little/too-late to stop the Razorbacks from charging right back down the field as they'd done for most of the previous three quarters after a slow start. With that, the Aggies likely fall out of the polls for the time being, and almost certainly fall out of the race for a BCS bid that doesn't involve them rebounding to win the Big 12's automatic bid — a turnaround the current defense would seem to preclude, based on the last two weeks.

If they somehow manage to salvage the kind of season they were hoping for, though, it won't just be because they fixed the secondary: At some point, they've got to remember how to keep the pedal down and drive with a lead.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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