COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Arkansas was optimistic its season would get back on track in Texas, where this group of Razorbacks had been undefeated in four games.
Something else happened at Kyle Field, though.
Arkansas’ free-fall became even more embarrassing.
The Razorbacks endured another low moment in a month loaded with them Saturday, suffering a 58-10 loss to Texas A&M in front of 86,442 at Kyle Field. The loss ended Arkansas’ four-game win streak against the Aggies and also helped Texas A&M enjoy a historical moment at home: The Aggies notched their first Southeastern Conference win.
It also equaled Arkansas’ worst start in its 21 seasons in the SEC. The 1992 Razorbacks also began the year 1-4 during their first season in the conference.
“The season’s going south,” Arkansas running back Knile Davis said. “We have to resurrect it.”
It’s hard to imagine that happening, though, after another SEC blowout.
It was hard to decipher which team was an SEC newcomer Saturday with Arkansas (1-4, 0-2 in SEC), once again, offering little resistance to a Texas A&M (3-1, 1-1 in SEC) offense that piled up 716 yards behind quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Razorbacks gained 515 yards of their own, but managed just 10 points thanks to three turnovers and red zone woes (one score on five possessions inside the Texas A&M 20).
The problems all led to Texas A&M’s largest win in the series, topping the 41-0 win against Arkansas in 1942. The 58 points also was the most Texas A&M has scored against the Razorbacks, topping a 42-13 win against Arkansas in 1950.
“This game was real important,” Texas A&M offensive lineman Patrick Lewis said. “Coming in the last three years, we haven’t fared too good against Arkansas. That big-time comeback they had. This game was real big … We really wanted to prove a point and get our first SEC win and beat Arkansas.”
Arkansas, meanwhile, has been preaching progress in attitude and execution since the 52-0 loss to Alabama on Sept. 15 in the SEC opener. But quarterback Tyler Wilson — who called out teammates for giving up against the Crimson Tide — admitted the Razorbacks took a step back Saturday.
Arkansas has been outscored 110-10 in two SEC games.
“It was back to where it was against Alabama, unfortunately,” said Wilson, who completed 29 of 59 passes for 373 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. “We had progress last week. Early, we came out in this game and marched the ball down the field, had good body language, I thought, and was ready to go.
"Then things started to go a little bit sour and you started to see that — myself included.”
Arkansas — which led 10-7 in the first quarter — lost control Saturday during a putrid second quarter.
The Razorbacks were gashed repeatedly by quarterback Manziel and the Aggies, allowing scores on big plays. Arkansas’ offense had no answers after a confident start, either, punting the ball away after short possessions and throwing a key interception.
The turning point came with Arkansas trailing 13-10. The Razorbacks put together another solid drive that reached the Texas A&M 19, but it stalled with a fumble by running back Knile Davis. The Razorbacks did recover the loose ball, but Wilson soon threw a pass that was intercepted by Texas A&M defensive back Steven Terrell.
It was returned to the 50-yard line.
Texas A&M covered those 50 yards in three plays, pushing its lead to 20-10 on Manziel’s touchdown pass to running back Ben Malena. Arkansas went three plays and out on its next possession, then Manziel threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to receiver Ryan Swope to give the Aggies a 27-10 lead just before the end of the half.
“I don’t know where we went wrong,” Davis said. “We had the momentum flowing. We were pumped. We were ready to go. It just turned away from us.”
The only hope at halftime: Arkansas trailed Texas A&M by 18 points at halftime in last year’s 42-38 win in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. But it was clear the Razorbacks didn’t have a similar comeback in them early in the third quarter, when Wilson threw another interception on Arkansas’ first possession and Texas A&M quickly scored a field goal.
Manziel was key in the rout, turning in a dazzling performance against an anemic defense. The freshman completed 29 of 38 passes for a school-record 453 yards with three touchdowns and also rushed for a game-high 104 yards with a touchdown.
He set an SEC record for total offense (557 yards), breaking a mark held by former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning and LSU’s Rohan Davey.
“When you’ve got a quarterback like Johnny, you’ve got to stay on your toes,” Malena said.
Arkansas couldn’t and Manziel made them pay again and again. He left the field in the fourth quarter, but the blowout wasn’t complete. Texas A&M continued to shred the Arkansas defense in the final minutes and its reserves scored one final touchdown to make it 58-10.
“It’s not their job to keep the score down,” Arkansas coach John L. Smith said when asked if he was surprised the Aggies were throwing the ball late. “It’s our job to keep the score down. So I’ve never, ever criticized anybody for what somebody might call running the score up.
“That’s what they do. When they put their offense out there they try to score. We have to be man enough to say it’s our job to defend it.”
Texas A&M was just 18 yards shy of equaling the opponent record against Arkansas, which was set by Southern Cal (736 yards in 2005).
The 58 points allowed was Arkansas’ third-highest in an SEC game behind a loss at Tennessee in 2000 (63-20) and the seven-overtime win against Kentucky in 2003 (70-63). It also is the first time the Razorbacks have allowed 50 points or more in consecutive SEC games.
Arkansas could offer little explanation for another round of struggles, too, saying its only goal now is to regroup and improve.
It has been the message for four straight weeks for a team whose preseason goals have been derailed one month into the season.
“You have to put your arm around them and keep hugging them and encouraging them and kicking them in the tail as well and let them know you can’t give up on each other,” Smith said when asked if he feared players would fold. “We haven’t given up on anybody. You have to keep believing. Quit isn’t in our vocabulary and you can’t allow it to be.”
NEXT FOR THE HOGS
Arkansas at Auburn
KICKOFF: 11 a.m. TV: ESPN/ESPN2.
WHERE: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
RADIO: Razorback Sports Network.
SATELLITE RADIO: TBA.
RECORDS: Arkansas Razorbacks, 1-4, 0-2 Southeastern Conference; Auburn Tigers, 1-3, 0-2. LAST GAME: Arkansas lost, 58-10, to Texas A&M on Saturday at College Station, Texas; Auburn lost, 12-10, to LSU on Sept. 22 at Auburn.
SERIES: Auburn leads 11-9-1 (5-4-1 at Auburn).
LAST MEETING: Arkansas won 38-14 on Oct. 8, 2011, at Faytteville for its third win in the past four meetings and fourth in the past six.
LAST TIME AT AUBURN: Auburn won 65-43 on Oct. 16, 2010.
COACHES: Arkansas, John L. Smith (1-4, first season; 133-90 overall, 19th season); Auburn, Gene Chizik (31-12, fourth seasons; 36-31 overall, sixth season).