ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin turned to the leaders of his team in a back-and-forth, potentially frustrating game against Arkansas.
With a young team, including a freshman quarterback, Sumlin asked his veteran players to show confidence. He wanted a calm demeanor, and he didn’t want anyone to panic.
The players delivered on that mandate.
“It was all smiles in the huddle,” Christian Kirk said. “It wasn’t serious. We were all smiling and we knew that we had the confidence to go out there and win the game.”
Kirk and the rest of the leadership group also made the key plays when Texas A&M needed them in a 50-43 overtime victory at AT&T Stadium on Saturday.
“The team handled it well,” Kirk said. “We were able to go out there and get the win.”
Armani Watts, a senior captain, sealed the victory with an interception in the end zone after Kirk had given the Aggies the lead on a 10-yard touchdown reception, his third score of the day, on the first possession of overtime.
“We made a great call and executed it. And, really, we worked on that play actually all week, tight end, getting that fullback on him,” Watts said of the interception. “And Tyrel (Dodson) was covering it well, but I just saw the ball, so I just attacked it.”
It was the third time in four years that A&M and Arkansas needed overtime to decide a winner, and the Aggies continued to serve as a stumbling block for the Razorbacks.
The Aggies are now 6-0 in the series since joining the SEC in 2012 and, along with No. 1 Alabama, are one of two SEC West teams that Arkansas have failed to defeat during that time.
“Very disappointing, the guys are crushed,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “But obviously three games into a season where we’ve a lot of football in front of us. If they can fight that way for four quarters the rest of the year they’re going to be all right.”
The lead changed hands four times in the fourth quarter before Texas A&M kicker Daniel LaCamera tied it at 43 on 27-yard field goal with four seconds remaining.
Keith Ford’s 44-yard run gave Texas A&M a 33-28 lead with 8:46 remaining. Arkansas then countered when Jonathan Nance caught a 44-yard touchdown pass with 5:21 to go to restore the lead at 36-33.
That lead lasted 11 seconds after Kirk returned the ensuing kick-off 100 yards for a score, giving A&M another brief lead before David Williams scored on 4-yard run with 3:39 remaining.
While Arkansas tied the game eventually, Kirk’s kickoff return was a big moment for the Aggies.
“It gave us confidence, really,” Ford said. “We already knew it was going to be a struggle, but there was just a little bit more fight in us. So that was a big play from him, and it really shifted the game around.”
Texas A&M could have gone for the win on it’s final regulation possession after it reached the Arkansas 21-yard line with 55 seconds remaining. Instead of throwing the ball the Aggies ran it three times up the middle before kicking the field goal.
“Once we got to the 30-yard line we felt good about our kicker, we felt good about where we were with the time on the clock,” Sumlin said. “If it goes into overtime it goes into overtime. We just don’t want to lose our opportunity right here with a young guy. So we kind of took it out of his hands and ran it and kicked it.”
Allen completed 12 of 25 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns, with 100 of those yards to Nance on three receptions.
Kellen Mond completed 14 of 27 passes for 216 yards and ran for 109 more. Ford ran for 102 yards and had a pair of touchdowns.
The Aggies had to overcome a bit of bad luck in the first half after a review of a big play didn’t go their way.
In the second quarter Mond appeared to score on an 89-yard touchdown run, but was ruled out of bounds at the 10-yard line. It was clear in replays that Mond didn’t step out of bounds, and the SEC issued a statement that the call was incorrect, but since the whistle had blown it was a dead play at the 10.
Three plays later A&M had to settle for a 27-yard field goal, cutting the score to 21-10.
Texas A&M: The Aggies have been looking for an offensive boost after blowing a 34-point lead against UCLA and struggling for stretches offensively in wins against Nicholls State and Louisiana-Lafayette. They found a spark with explosive plays on Saturday. Texas A&M had four plays of 44 yards or more that either scored or helped spark scoring drives.
Arkansas: Bret Bielema had been feeling the heat after his career record at Arkansas dropped to 26-27 with a 28-7 loss to TCU on Sept. 9. He’s not going to get any relief after losing to A&M and dropping to 10-23 all-time in SEC games.
Arkansas wore a new uniform to pay homage to Arkansas alum and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
The red uniform was a Cowboys-Razorbacks crossover look. The base was the Cowboys home jersey with red instead of blue and Arkansas logos instead of the NFL team’s. Jones was a co-captain on Arkansas’ 1964 national championship team and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
Texas A&M: Returns to Kyle Field to host South Carolina looking to improve 4-0 all-time against the Gamecocks.
Arkansas: Host a non-conference game against New Mexico State and are trying to improve to 6-0 in the series.
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