1. Third-Down Success: Arkansas wants its offense to stay on the field against up-tempo teams by putting together long drives that eat clock and produce points.

1. Third-Down Success: Arkansas wants its offense to stay on the field against up-tempo teams by putting together long drives that eat clock and produce points.


The Razorbacks have been successful for a variety of reasons during key wins the past two weeks. One of the biggest: Arkansas’ production on third down.


Arkansas is 18-for-26 (69.2 percent) on third downs in wins against Texas Tech and Northern Illinois. The Razorbacks were 8-for-12 against the Red Raiders, then followed it up with a 10-for-14 performance against the Huskies.


"The third-down thing is big," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. "We practice and practice and practice third-down success. It’s one of our edges. Our fourth edge is to win the critical areas and third and fourth-down conversions are huge."


Arkansas has been much improved, so far, from a group that struggled on third down last season. The Razorbacks were 9th in the conference (41.7 percent).


Arkansas is fifth in the SEC and 11th in the NCAA (55 percent) after four games and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said there’s two reasons for the improvement.


"Execution and putting yourself in better third downs," Chaney said. "Third-and-9s are horrible. Third-and-1s are much, much better.


"So shorten the distance and execute your plays. I think that’s key to it."


Arkansas’ success the past two weeks has helped them sustain six scoring drives that spanned 10 plays or more. The Razorbacks also had a 14-play drive at the end of the Texas Tech game that ate the final 9:10 off the clock in the 49-28 win.


The formula will be vital once again against Texas A&M’s high-powered offense.


"It’s all about staying on the field," Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said. "It’s all about keeping drives alive, keeping the ball in our hands and keeping our defense on the sidelines and resting them.


"Any time we convert on third down and stay on the field, it’s obviously beneficial."


2. Sack Happy: Arkansas’ offensive line has allowed only one sack in four games. But the group’s pass protection skills will be put to the test by Texas A&M’s defense.


The Aggies enter Saturday’s game tied for third in the NCAA in sacks (17) and are averaging 4.25 a game. Texas A&M got nearly half of its sack total last week, taking down SMU’s quarterbacks eight times in the 58-6 win.


Freshman Myles Garrett leads the Aggies with 5 ½ sacks, which already has set the school’s freshman record. The mark leads the SEC and is fourth in the nation. But offensive line coach Sam Pittman said the Aggies are getting production elsewhere.


"They have an exotic, odd package and they’ve got special players that can rush the passer," Pittman said. "Their defensive ends certainly have gotten a lot of attention with their sacks. So we’re going to have to do something against them. We’re going to have to chip them. We’re not going to block them one-on-one, I can tell you that."


Allen believes the Arkansas front — which has surrendered just nine sacks in 16 games under Bielema — will keep him clean Saturday.


"We’re going against a good D-Line, but I have a lot of confidence in my O-Line," Allen said. "So I don’t think we’re too worried about the sacks or anything. We really don’t give up sacks. That’s something we kind of pride ourselves on."


3. Aggies Impressed: Arkansas’ offense has been powered by a ground game that ranks seventh in the nation (324.5 yards a game). But Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said the fact Arkansas is third in the nation in scoring (48.8 points) isn’t because of the run alone.


He credited quarterback Allen for the offense’s growth.


"You can run the ball the way they run it, but I think where they’ve really improved is quarterback play," Sumlin said during his weekly news conference in College Station, Texas. "We talk about their running backs, who are tremendous players, but I think Brandon Allen has really improved as a passer.


"You can’t score that many points running the ball all the time."


Allen is completing 61.4 percent of his passes with 8 touchdowns and an interception this season. He’s averaging just 138 passing yards, but is coming off a 199-yard performance in the win against Northern Illinois.


Allen did throw for a career-high 282 yards against Texas A&M last season.


"They run that offense so well," Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. "Most of their passing game is not real scientific. … Arkansas is going to make you defend the run and try and go over the top. They will try and beat you with the deep balls and keep the chains moving with the intermediate passing game."


4. Extra Points


• Arkansas receivers coach Michael Smith said senior Demetrius Wilson (ankle) participated in Tuesdays practice. Wilson didn’t play against Northern Illinois. "We’re monitoring him to make sure we have him for Saturday," Smith said. "But he took a lot of reps (Tuesday), and I thought he did some good things. He made some nice diving catches. We’ll see how it goes, get him some more treatment (Tuesday night) and hopefully fire him up for (Wednesday)."


• Texas A&M receiver Speedy Noil’s status is unclear for the Arkansas game. Noil, who leads the team in all-purpose yards (108.0 a game), suffered a knee injury during the 38-10 win against Rice. He didn’t play at SMU last Saturday. Sumlin said "we’ll see" when asked about Noil’s status Tuesday.


• A CBS crew is in town this week filming a 30-minute, all-access show on Arkansas that will be televised on Nov. 15 at 11:30 a.m. The crew is following the Razorbacks through its preparation for this week’s game against Texas A&M.


— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau