FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has had his share of struggles in the Southeastern Conference since leaving Wisconsin following the 2012 season.
None have frustrated Razorbacks fans quite as much as the school’s recent woes against Texas A&M.
The Aggies (2-1) are a former Southwest Conference rival of Arkansas (1-1). Since they joined the SEC in 2012, they are also one of two West division teams the Razorbacks haven’t defeated - along with No. 1 Alabama. Arkansas has lost all five of its SEC games against Texas A&M, a streak it is desperate to snap when the two schools meet once again in the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Saturday.
Arkansas enters as in need of a win as at any other time during Bielema’s tenure, thanks to a 28-7 loss to No. 16 TCU two weeks ago that pushed the coach’s record (26-27) with the Razorbacks under .500. He’s also 10-22 in the SEC and spent last week during a bye challenging the Razorbacks and searching for answers following the loss to the Horned Frogs.
“I don’t need Superman to show up on Saturday,” Bielema said. “I don’t need someone to play at a level higher than they’ve ever played at. I just need them to play (like) what I’ve seen them do during the course of the week and that will lead to good results.”
Of course, Texas A&M has had its share of problems since the start of the season. Not only have the Aggies blown a 34-point lead in an opening loss to UCLA , but they struggled at times offensively the last two weeks in wins over Nicholls State and Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Razorbacks struggled offensively in the loss to TCU, failing to score in the second half for the third time in four games. They are hopeful the week off helped them recover emotionally from the draining defeat - as well as allowing them time to prepare for the Aggies.
“We don’t need a guy to go out there and do this and that and do everything,” Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw said. “We just need everybody to do their jobs.”
Some things to watch as Arkansas tries to earn its first SEC win over Texas A&M:
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen entered this year as the SEC’s leading returner in passing efficiency, but he has yet to regain that form - throwing for only 135 and 138 yards in the Razorbacks’ first two games. The senior averaged nearly 264 yards passing per game a year ago, but he’s struggled with a new group of wide receivers and lackluster offensive line so far. Despite his struggles, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin paid Allen plenty of respect this week. “He’s a baller,” Sumlin said.
At the beginning of the week, Bielema said sophomore Connor Limpert was likely to take over as the team’s field goal kicker - though he said freshman Blake Mazza could still win the job with a strong week of practice. Whoever kicks will replace junior Cole Hedlund, who missed attempts of 23 and 20 yards in the loss to TCU two weeks ago.
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond struggled in the UCLA loss after entering the game for the injured Nick Starkel, completing only 3 of 17 passes. The freshman has been much better the last two weeks and he completed 21 of 34 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Speaking of freshman, Arkansas running back Chase Hayden was a non-factor in the loss to TCU despite rushing for 120 yards on 14 carries in his college debut in the opener against Florida A&M. Both Bielema and Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos said this week they expect more playing time for the talented freshman.
Texas A&M is seeking its sixth straight win over Arkansas on Saturday, which would match its longest streak in the series. The last time the Aggies won six straight games over the Razorbacks was from 1938-43.
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