For the second straight year, the Texas A&M football team comes out of Arlington with an overtime win against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Aggies were able to score 21 points in regulation on their way to a 28-21 over the Razorbacks, a total dictated primarily by the number of drive opportunities the Razorbacks allowed A&M to have while dominating the time of possession, 39:28 to 20:32. A&M Head Coach, Kevin Sumlin, was asked today about the relevance of time of possession for A&M's style, and how the team was able to keep themselves in the game with a limited clock.
For what we do, it's not relevant at all. What's relevant to us is 3rd down conversion. If you're not converting 3rd downs offensively, it doesn't matter how much you have the ball. [You need] third-down conversion on defense and third-down conversion offense,and turnover margin. We won the game because we won turnover margin 2-0. We were efficient on the few plays that we had. It's hard to walk into the locker room at halftime and be frustrated when you only had 16 plays and are winning the game.
In those situations I think what you see from other people and maybe feel from the crowd is "Hey we gotta do something, we gotta score." That's not really the case. The score of the game didn't dictate that. The score of the game was a close football game. I think a lot of times in those situations people panic and get outside of themselves, and feel like "every possession we have to score." In actuality, every possession you need to at least flip the field if you don't put points on the board. In that type of game, a close game. That's how we were able to hang in there. - Kevin Sumlin
Christian Kirk & The Freshman Impact
Texas A&M's ability to capitalize on it's drive opportunities came due to it's explosiveness on offense. While the Razorbacks major gains came on the ground game, A&M's came in the passing game, putting together 6 passes of 20+ yards on the day. Three of those passes were put in the hands of WR Christian Kirk, who is having nothing short of an All SEC type season thus far. Asked today about what it means to the team to get this amount of production out of a true freshman, Kevin Sumlin believes it shows "that the best players get to play here whether you've been here five years or five days, and that competition is our best friend."
Sumlin went into more detail about NCAA rule changes that he believes have given incoming freshman players the ability to be more impactful during their first year on campus:
I've said this before, the new rules have really helped college football. And have helped the student athlete. The fact that we're able to pay for summer school subsequent to the young man entering in the fall....that was one big thing that helped from a maturation stand point.
The second big rule change was coaches being able to meet with players about football things for up to 2 hours a week during the summertime. You've got a guy who's here, he's lifting three or four times a week, in our situation you've got quarterbacks are running 7-on-7s with the defense three nights a week, he's lifting and conditioning four nights a week, and he's meeting with his coaches three days a week. That'll speed up a curve in a hurry, as opposed to a guy coming in August and seeing a playbook for the first time. - Kevin Sumlin
Christian Kirk has assumed the role of another dynamic WR, Speedy Noil, who continues to be hampered by an injury this year. Asked about Noil's progress so far and how Noil is handling the setbacks, Offensive Coordinator Jake Spavital, says "He's handling it great." and that we should expect to see his role increase in SEC play.
Another true freshman to make an appearance in the Arkansas game is Kyler Murray. Previously Murray had been swapped in with Allen at the beginning of a new drive, but he was used as a mid-drive change-of-pace QB this week.
"I was hoping it would catch them off balance. It looked like it did, we gained 25 yards," said Sumlin of his use of Murray. Murray gained all of his yards on his feet, rushing 5 times for 27 yards - including one run of 17 yards. Spavital. Sumlin would continue to say that being "in that environment is advantageous to him," and "as he gets more comfortable, there's more things he can do instead of just running him on and off the field."
Arkansas was forced to use a timeout to account for Murray coming into the game, and while he hasn't been heavily involved in the passing game as of yet, both Spavital and Sumlin continue to reaffirm that we'll see it more as the season goes along - both because Murray will continue to develop, and because the main goal right now is creating preparation issues and confusion.
Earlier this year, SBNation Football Study Hall editor Bill Connelly dissected the A&M/Arizona State game, pointing out that Arizona State's rushing success rate could indicate that the rushing defense was still a concern this year. Based on Saturday's game, he was right. Arkansas RB Alex Collins rushed for 151 of the 232 yards the Razorbacks gained on the ground. They were highly explosive, posting eight 10+ yard rushing plays, and they were able to limit the number of drives available to the offense.
"In our mind as a defense, we didn't play as well as we were capable of playing," said Defensive Coordinator, John Chavis, on the defenses performance. He attributes most of the issues seen on defense to their preparation, stating "that's on me. I've got to get it done. It's not the kids. They're playing their butts off. I've got to help them."
"Physically, we didn't get out-manned anywhere. We had some issues with the vertical divide with our linebackers. We were rushing upfield trying to get to the quarterback and we weren't sealing the gaps. It took us a little longer to get to some things. That's when you start running twists and insides, three-man, and we did that in the fourth quarter and it helped a bit.
"We should've been rushing the passer when we should've been playing run, and when they ran draws we didn't get in the seams as quickly as we could. They also ran some trap plays that we hadn't seen, some wham plays that we felt we were prepared for, but when you see new blocking schemes you need to be able to adjust quicker." - John Chavis
The defense continues to be hampered at LB due to injuries. Sumlin, as usual, didn't go into details on player injuries, so their status will remain unknown until game time.
The holes in the rushing defense will need to be further closed up before the team faces Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott, who at 230 lbs. has proven to be a load to tackle at times. Mississippi State will run a lot of play action to open up the power running game. John Chavis, when asked about Prescott, made the following statement:
"You'd better tackle him when he's got the ball. That's for sure. He's an outstanding athlete, runs the ball extremely well, throws the ball extremely well. So when you start looking at quarterbacks, facing two guys back to back, even in last week's game we let the quarterback run when we had someone sitting in the hole that should've cleaned it up on third down situations. You've got to make him make tight throws and then account for him in the running game, because he's a big threat in the running game."
Regardless of the struggles seen at times, John Chavis has made sure his squad takes the most important lesson home with them from the game against Arkansas.
"I'm proud of the team. That's what you take from that game, the will to win. It was strong." - John Chavis
Here were some of the other quotes of note from today's presser:
- Sumlin on Miss St: "This team we're playing, Mississippi State, is a good team. You spend five weeks last season at No. 1 and return the best quarterback in the league and they're picked last in the division. I don't see that. They lost a game, they missed a field goal. They kept Auburn out of the end zone on four trips into the red zone last week.....It's a team that's not getting the type of respect they should be getting, and they're coming in here to prove it.
- Sumlin on Kyle Allen's poise: "He's been really good. He's been calm, the look in his eyes has been good. When he left the Arkansas game last year, I think honestly he was thinking about going somewhere else. He's come a long ways. Can he get better? You bet."
- Sumlin on if he knows why he has more success on the road than at Kyle Field: "Nope. Don't know. If you get an answer, let me know."
- Chavis on De'Vante Harris: "...[Harris] is a good player and he's playing with a lot of confidence. He's got to continue to play that way. It's good to have a guy out there you don't have to worry about. It allows you to be more flexible with your defense."
- Spavital on going 2 of 9 on 3rd down conversions: "I think it was a lack of execution, and sometimes our second down calls ended up in negative yardage."
- Spavital on Red Zone issues: "Last week we had a turnover on downs and kicked three field goals. It's mainly eliminating negative plays. We emphasize that when we enter the red zone we have to always be moving forward. ... We had some mental mistakes, had a bad handoff, Kyle made a call on a zone read, that's just part of the maturation process."
- Spavital on the 2nd and goal play where Allen took a sack: "[Allen] said that when he had the exchange with Tra Carson, he had a bad hold on the ball, so he just kept it and didn't want to force a fumble. I'm glad the ball didn't land on the ground, but he was trying to hand it off to Tra Carson."
Press Conference Videos
HC Kevin Sumlin
OC Jake Spavital
DC John Chavis
QB Kyle Allen