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CESSNA: Texas A&M needs a sense of urgency with Arkansas looming

CESSNA: Texas A&M needs a sense of urgency with Arkansas looming

Texas A M Colorado Football

Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada, center, is stopped after a short gain by Colorado defensive linemen Na'im Rodman, left, on Saturday in Denver. 

Texas A&M barely survived being upset by Colorado. It’ll have to be better in two weeks to beat a revived Arkansas team.

The unranked Razorbacks made a statement with a 40-21 victory over Texas on Saturday, while the fifth-ranked Aggies eventually wore down Colorado for a 10-7 victory.

The 15th-ranked Texas Longhorns were no match for the Razorbacks who rushed for 333 yards, dominating play from start to finish as the fans showed their appreciation by tearing down the goalposts.

How jacked up will Arkansas be to play against a Top 10 team that’s beaten the Razorbacks nine straight years? A&M, which led only 10-3 at halftime in the opener against Kent State, can’t keep starting slowly and expect to beat teams playing near their best.

“All that ranking stuff don’t mean diddly to me, but people [know] we’re supposed to be a good football team, so people are going to [circle the game],” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You’ve got to understand the burden that carries and how you prepare and how you play and how you compete each and every week.

“You’re gonna get everyone’s A game, right down to the end and we have to do a better job. And I have to do a better job coaching. At the end of the day, they’re a product of how you’re coached and we got to do a better job with myself to get these guys ready to play. But we’ll do that and hopefully move on.”

Colorado’s A game allowed the Buffs to lead A&M for 44 minutes, 43 seconds, but the 17-point underdogs weren’t good enough to finish. The more talented Aggies dominated the fourth quarter. A&M took the lead by piling up 162 yards on 24 plays while Colorado ran only three plays for five yards. Colorado forced and recovered a fumble in the end zone as A&M got nothing on a 13-play, 86-yard drive, but the Aggies finally scored a touchdown on the next possession.

“I mean, you can only stop an offense like that for so long,” Colorado linebacker Nate Landman said. “You can’t three-and-out a team for a full four quarters of the game.”

A&M was able to overcome losing starting quarterback Haynes King to an ankle injury in the first quarter. Backup Zach Calzada looked lost for three quarters, but he didn’t get much help as A&M couldn’t establish the running game and the receivers had a tough time making plays. A&M didn’t have a play of more than 20 yards until midway through the fourth quarter and ended with only two.

A&M was able to win the game because the defense put the clamps on Colorado’s offense in the second half and the kicking game was solid led by Nik Contantinou who averaged 49 yards on eight punts. The encouraging thing for the offense was Calzada going 8-of-14 passing for 118 yards in the fourth quarter, a remarkable finish for someone who probably hadn’t seen many snaps with the first unit after King was named the starter.

All Calzada needs to get better is playing time, which will come if King is sidelined for any length of time. But Calzada is going to be only as good as the running game and receivers, and they were basically invisible for three quarters Saturday. The defense has been solid in the second half of both games, but what wasn’t was allowing 235 yards rushing in the first half on 45 carries for a 5.2 average.

The Aggies have a lot of things to fix before it plays Arkansas on Sept. 25 at AT&T Stadium. And two weeks after that the Aggies will play host to defending national champ Alabama, a game A&M fans circled the day the schedule was announced. A&M first needs to take care of the teams which have circled the Aggies. If not, the Alabama game will not carry the significance A&M had envisioned.

A&M dropped two spots to seventh in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 college football poll, but remained fifth in the coaches’ poll.

A&M was jumped by Oregon, Iowa and Clemson in AP. Oregon climbed eight spots to fourth after a 35-28 victory at Ohio State, which fell eight spots to 11th. Iowa climbed to fifth with a 27-17 victory at Iowa State. Clemson held sixth by beating South Carolina State 49-3.

Arkansas moved into the poll at No. 20, making its first appearance in five years. Other SEC ranked teams were No. 11 Florida, No. 17 Ole Miss and No. 22 Auburn.

Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma remained atop the coaches’ poll followed by Oregon, A&M, Clemson, Iowa, Cincinnati, Florida and Notre Dame. Ole Miss was 16th, Auburn 20th and Arkansas 24th.

A&M scored its fewest points in a victory since defeating Nebraska 9-6 in 2010. It was the fewest points scored in Fisher’s 111 victories. The fewest had been in a 14-0 victory at Boston College in 2015 as the Seminoles were limited to 217 yards.

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Texas A&M showed why it was a preseason top 10 team in Saturday’s 41-38 upset of top-ranked Alabama. The Aggies’ four preseason All-Americans played well, but they weren’t among the trio to earn Southeastern Conference weekly honors. And two of those players – quarterback Zach Calzada and running back/kick returner Devon Achane – weren’t among the team’s 15 returning starters.

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