We are closing in on the Aggies’ SEC opener against Arkansas in the latest installment of the Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The matchup marks the 79th time the two former Southwest Conference rivals will face off, with A&M winning nine of the last ten times.
That 10th game, happens to have been the 2021 matchup, when the Razorbacks significantly outplayed the Aggies on their way to a 20-10 Hogs win.
The Aggies will take the field Saturday to try to kick-off another winning streak against Arkansas, so what can we expect to see this year?
We sat down with Taylor Jones of Razorbacks Wire to preview the matchup.
The Hogs had to mount a furious comeback last week against Missouri State to fend off the upset. What changed in the 4th quarter of that game to make that comeback possible?
Sep 17, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Raheim Sanders (5) rushes for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Missouri State Bears at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas won 38-27. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Arkansas sure put a scare in us last Saturday, that’s for sure. KJ Jefferson tossed Rocket Sanders a shuffle pass with 11:38 remaining in the game that went for a 73-yard touchdown to cut the Missouri State lead to 27-24. That pass was enough to send momentum to their sideline, as Arkansas forced the Bears to go three-and-out on their next possession, which set up an 82-yard punt return by Bryce Stephens to give the Razorbacks the lead. Arkansas needed just one source of momentum to finally get going and took advantage once it presented itself.
KJ Jefferson has been a dynamic runner throughout his career, but he's off to a much better start as a passer in 2022. What are the biggest developments that have allowed him to make that jump?
Sep 17, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) drops back to pass against the Missouri State Bears during a game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas won 38-27. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Last season, Jefferson relied heavily on eventual first-round selection, Treylon Burks. Out of Jefferson’s 2,676 passing yards, Burks was on the receiving end of 1,104 of those yards. The transfer portal has benefitted Arkansas very well this season, especially at receiver. Jefferson has more targets to throw to this season including Toledo transfer Matt Landers and Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood, which allows him to be more diverse when throwing the football. Tight end Trey Knox has been beneficial to Jefferson as well.
What aspect of Texas A&M's game could give Arkansas fits?
Missouri State Bears quarterback Jason Shelley (3) carries the ball as the Bears took on the Arkansas Razorback at Arkansas on Saturday, September 17, 2022.
Arkansas has yet to stop their opponents’ passing game. Through three games, all three of Arkansas’ opposing quarterbacks have thrown for over 350 yards, which has caused Arkansas’ pass defense to rank dead last in the NCAA. The Razorbacks are great at rushing the pass but have yet to stop it once the ball leaves the quarterback’s arm.
What is an aspect of A&M's game that you feel gives Arkansas an advantage?
Sep 17, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Drew Sanders 942) tackles Missouri State Bears quarterback Jason Shelley (3) in the fourth quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas won 38-27. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
I will stick with the defensive side on this answer as well. Arkansas does not stop the pass well but they are exceptional at making stops behind the line of scrimmage. The Razorbacks lead the nation in sacks with 17 to this point. Transfers Jordan Domineck and Drew Sanders, as well as Zach Williams, and Bumper Pool will be four names to watch for on Saturday.
What will Arkansas need to do well in order to get the win on Saturday night?
Sep 10, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks defensive back Dwight McGlothern (3) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas won 44-30. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
They just need to stick with the basics. Jefferson needs to have a great day, Raheim “Rocket” Sanders needs to continue producing at an elite level at running back, and the defense needs to continuously increase pressure on Max Johnson.