Thoughts from the Arkansas Game

What you saw on Saturday was a coaching staff and team that wanted it more than the other team.  Unfortunately, that team was Arkansas and not the Aggies.  Arkansas came out ready to punch and when they punched the Aggies just staggered back rather than respond.  Jimbo certainly bears some blame here but I think I was most disappointed by the lack of responding by the players.

The defense finally settled in but it was really too little and too late.  Before that they just let Arkansas punch them for almost a half of football.  The second touchdown was the perfect example.  Multiple guys had a chance to tackle the ballcarrier but just didn’t do it.  That drive should have been a field goal attempt but instead it was a touchdown that really put the game away way too early in the game.

Coaching wise Arkansas did a masterful job on the Aggies.  The long touchdown pass was perfect.  They sucked in all the safeties and put possibly the best receiver in the SEC one on one with our injured corner back.  Jefferson threw the perfect pass which is rare for him but that’s how you win football games.  You identify matchup advantages and when you get it you take advantage.  That’s exactly what Arkansas did.

Meanwhile on the other side of the field the Aggie coaching staff had ONE wrinkle and it was a tight end screen to Max Wright.  Nothing against Max Wright as I love his heart but he’s not going to exploit a defense.  Arkansas created a matchup advantage for the top receiver in the SEC.  A&M created a tight end screen to their back up blocking tight end.  That’s the coaching difference.

11 penalties for 75 yards was also really bad.  That just reeks of a team that’s not fully prepared or focused.  The Aggie team was by far the more talented team.  That’s not a knock on Arkansas.  They played a tremendous game and deserved to win.  It’s just that when you’re the more talented team you don’t commit penalties if you’re prepared and focused.  It’s also an indication of there being minimal team leadership to get everyone focused and hold players accountable.

Coaches and players need to realize we’re playing SEC games and if you don’t have wrinkles or aren’t ready from the whistle you’re going to struggle.

Let’s get to the game.

Offense:

Coaching:

Jimbo is THOROUGHLY confused on calling plays right now.  He has no sequencing of plays.  He has no idea what his offense is capable of.  He just calls plays willy nilly.  We had some really key injuries especially with the loss of Layden Robinson and obviously Haynes King.  However, Jimbo has to scheme and call plays on the talent that’s playing.  We didn’t do anything new on Saturday.  I know that’s how Jimbo tends to roll but when your talent is down you better figure out your strengths and weaknesses real quick.

On the Arkansas side of the ball they DARED A&M to run and we wouldn’t do it.  They had 3 defensive lineman on the line and 3 linebackers with 5 defensive backs for most of the game.  They were bringing up linebackers from time to time but for the most part those linebackers were just dropping back clogging up passing lanes.  Arkansas wasn’t worried about the run and was all about defending the pass.  Jimbo played into their hand perfectly.

They were even putting two guys on Demas running deep routes to make sure he didn’t get open.  Barry Odom, the Arkansas Defensive Coordinator, simply defended where Jimbo kept trying to go.  It was a masterful job of coaching simply because Jimbo was being stubborn.

After Spiller’s touchdown run the Aggies were back in the game.  The defense was stopping the Arkansas offense.  I really thought we should have just kept the ball on the ground but Jimbo kept trying to pass the ball.  I’m sure the Arkansas coaching staff was shocked Jimbo was playing into their hand.

I know the offensive line was struggling in a big way but we couldn’t get guys open, our quarterback had dancing feet, and our backs are the biggest asset of the team.  Spiller didn’t see one single carry after that touchdown run.  Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

Establish some identity as an offense because right now there isn’t one.  It’s a confusing mess of plays that make no sense and most importantly simply aren’t working.

Quarterback:

If you wondered why Kellen Mond was our quarterback for the last two season you got your answer on Saturday.  I had some hope for Calzada getting the keys.  He can still turn it around but he sure doesn’t look like the guy.

Calzada got handed the thing he’s coveted the most and hasn’t done anything with it.  In my book winners win.  Not calling Calzada a loser but he certainly hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunity he’s been given.  If he truly wants to be the Aggie starting quarterback he’s showing he’s either not capable or doesn’t really want it.

He was confused the entire game.  The other parts of the offense weren’t hitting on all cylinders but Calzada wasn’t leading at all.  He had no answer for what Arkansas was throwing at him and it wasn’t even that complicated.  He had NO confidence.

He couldn’t anticipate any pressure or guys getting open.  The line struggled to block but he had some time and all he did was dance in the pocket.  He was simply overwhelmed for the entire game.

He’s likely got 4 more starts at the most.  I hope he develops but after almost 3 full games it’s pretty clear he’s pretty lost as the starting quarterback.  I really hoped for more with the kid but he backed down against a defense that is solid but not spectacular.  That’s not good.

Offensive Line:

I think the loss of Layden Robinson is bigger than the injury to Haynes King.  Robinson might be our best lineman.  Without him we have a major hole.  Kenyon Green filled in at right guard with Rueben Fatheree at right tackle.  At some point in the second half Jhamir Johnson got hurt.  That moved Green to left tackle and Blake Trainor at right guard.

Last week Fatheree filled in at left tackle when Johnson went out.  Green was at right guard and Trainor at right tackle.  See the issue?  We’re continually moving guys around and they’re not getting comfortable at one spot.  Green’s versatility is great but he’d be better off settling in at one position.

Fourth game of the season and we can’t figure out our offensive line.

At this point I’d give the starting left tackle to Fatheree and put Green back at right tackle.  Johnson and Trainor can fight out the right guard spot until Robinson gets back.  I get trying to find the best 5 in various spots but you can’t gel as an offensive line with guys continually moving around.

When Robinson comes back we should be able to run on the right side with Green and Robinson.

Bryce Foster continues to look like a true freshman being overwhelmed at times.  He had some snap issues so those need to get cleaned up.

Let’s get Robinson back and maybe we can get this line to gel.  Until then it’s really hopeless.

Wide Receiver:

Chase Lane was out but I don’t think that really mattered.  Arkansas took notice of Demond Demas being able to get deep last week and took that away.  For much of the game when Demas went deep Arkansas dropped a safety to help the corner back.  Even with a safety dropping back we couldn’t get any of the other receivers open.

Jalen Preston took over Lane’s role which utterly confused me.  This is his fourth season in the program and he hasn’t produced anything.  Surely he wasn’t the best option behind Lane.  I was really hoping to see something out of Moose Muhammed this game but we didn’t.

Baylor Cupp was suited up but I never saw him.  I thought he was supposed to be a matchup nightmare for defenses.

I don’t know what to say on receiver.  These guys simply struggle to get open for the most part.

You saw what a dominant receiver can do for an offense with Treylon Burks for Arkansas.  Until A&M gets that this offense is going to continue to struggle through the air.

Running Backs:

Isiah Spiller was the only person on offense who produced anything of real value this game.  He did a nice job of making something out of nothing on quite a few runs.  His cutting ability is outstanding.

Achane did bust anything but he’s a great change of pace.  The fact that he’s a homerun threat out of the backfield is a huge asset.

You know how I feel about these two guys – Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

Defense:

Kendall Briles is a heck of a college offensive coordinator.  He landed his big punch with the Treylon Burks touchdown pass.  Then he got a gift on the second touchdown when no Aggie defender wanted to tackle the guy with the ball.  Other than that they didn’t do much on offense.  They didn’t need to.  They just kept running their Run Pass Option (RPO) getting a few yards and burning clock while not creating a turnover or big play for the Aggie defense.  Kevin Sumlin could have learned a thing or two from Sam Pittman when it comes to protecting a lead.

For whatever reason the defense had issues tackling this game.  I think that’s because they were confused and just not fired up early on.  The defense came out flat but did get going and controlled the Arkansas offense in the second half.

This unit played well enough to win but with the current state of the offense they must be perfect.  I think I’m most shocked how flat they came out.  I expected Demarvin Leal or someone to step up and fire these guys up from the start.  I don’t like the long touchdown pass but I’ll give credit to Arkansas in that it was an outstanding play call and execution.  The second touchdown pass was the result of a defense that wasn’t focused.

I’m hoping this game is a wake up call they can’t go into a game sleepwalking.  They must bring the pain from the first snap.

Defensive Line:

These guys weren’t spectacular but they were solid.  The RPO confused them at times but for the most part they did a good job defending it to limit Arkansas breaking off big runs.  Peevy had another outstanding game and I thought Michael Clemons was solid.  Leal was his usual self.

Linebacker:

These guys cost us the game from a defensive standpoint.  I thought they had turned into a pretty solid unit but I was wrong.  They were routinely out of position letting the Arkansas running backs gash them on longer runs.

On the second touchdown play we all saw the push by Hansford rather than tackle.  Edgerrin Cooper actually busted the assignment which is frustrating.  The running back was lined up as the wide receiver.  Cooper correctly moved the corner inside to the slot receiver.  The running back then motioned into the backfield and Cooper followed him which means Cooper had him in man coverage.  When the running back flared out Cooper was a step slow which left the running back open and Cooper out of position to tackle him upon the reception.  Just a completely botched play by the linebackers.

Hansford did blow up the 4th and 1 stop so he wasn’t terrible.

Opposing offenses are going to see you can get these guys out of position on running plays.  They’ve got to develop more discipline and execute their assignments.  This can be an elite level defense if these guys can improve.

Secondary:

We all know Myles Jones got burned on the long touchdown pass.  That seemed to be his only play as I don’t recall seeing him again.  Maybe he’s still hurt or maybe Elko just replaced him.  I don’t know.

Why we didn’t have Jaylon Jones on Burks the whole game I don’t know.  Jaylon played a great game as usual.  If Jaylon is on Burks on that play I bet it doesn’t happen.  Jaylon is damn good.

The safeties did fine.  They seemed out of position quite a bit early on but they got settled in as the game went on.

Looking Forward:

Am I worried about this Aggie team?  Not really.  Am I concerned?  I absolutely am.

Turns out we miss four senior offensive lineman and quarterback more than I thought we would.

I had big hopes for this team.  I really thought we had a shot to be a special team and make the College Football Playoff.  I don’t see that happening right now but it’s still technically possible.  This is still a football team that’s going to win a good amount of games.  I truly believe that.

We’ve just made too many mental mistakes up until this point to be a great team.  The good news is those can get cleaned up.

I said coming into this season we needed get through September and see what kind of team we have.  Well, we’re there.  The loss of Haynes King and especially Layden Robinson has been big.  We’re still 3-1 and played Arkansas tough despite making a ton of mental mistakes.

I’m going to assume King is out through the bye week.  It just makes the most sense to make sure he’s fully healthy.  We have four more games until that break.  We should beat Mississippi State and South Carolina.  We don’t stand a prayer against Bama unless Jimbo really gets creative.  I think Mizzou is a 50/50 game right now.

If we can somehow go 3-1 over those three games we’ll be 6-2 which isn’t bad.  We’d then get King back for Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU.  I’m not worried about Prairie View.  Assuming Robinson is back and the line is finally settled in and gelling with King under center we could still go 10-2.  More than likely we’ll lose one of those games and go 9-3.  It’s disappointing but that’s still a solid season when you factor in losing your starting quarterback for a spell.

After the Bama loss last year we thought the season was over.  We assumed it would be another shitty Aggie football season.  I get that feeling.  However, that Bama loss did something to the team and everything started clicking. 

I’m really hoping this loss wakes Jimbo up as much as the players.  There’s no reason why we shouldn’t run the ball more.  I don’t really want to be one dimensional but we can go 3-1 over the next three games by running the ball.  Let’s get 3 wins over the next 4 games and get King back under center for the tougher part of our schedule outside of Bama.  Let’s go into limp mode and beat the teams we can beat.

Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

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