Arkansas suffered its first loss of the season and the Bret Bielema era on Saturday, as Rutgers stormed back from a 24-7 deficit in the third quarter to win 28-24.
“We were very disappointed in how we finished the game last week,” Bielema said. “(We) took some life lessons there that unfortunately needed to be learned, but they were learned in a non-conference game.”
Bielema believes that the team may have lost some focus after Jonathan Williams hit Hunter Henry for a 21-yard touchdown on a halfback pass early in the third quarter to make it 24-7.
“When that touchdown pass from J-Will (Jonathan Williams) was completed, our guys lost their minds on the sidelines,” Bielema said. “As coaches we have to do a better job of making sure everybody understands it is a four quarter game.”
Arkansas will need to play exceedingly well in all four of those quarter this Saturday if the Razorbacks hope to take down reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and his No. 10 Texas A&M Aggies.
“(The Texas A&M offense is) a very, very difficult challenge,” Bielema said. “It has a little bit of everything. Obviously a quarterback that is dynamic in the way that he can throw the football (with) his quick release, his ability to get the ball into tight windows (and) his ability to stay alive. (They) have so many weapons on the outside that bring some unique challenges; especially as the play continues.”
A&M has the fifth-ranked passing offense in the NCAA with an average of 391 yards per game through the air, which has led the Aggies to the No. 6 ranking in scoring offense at 50.3 points per game.
A&M goes much deeper than Manziel with a talented offense surrounding him including star receiver Mike Evans.
“If he (Evans) isn’t the best wide-out in college football then he is going to make a strong argument to that,” Bielema said. “He is a very dynamic player and a lot that he brings to the table is very hard to defend.”
The numbers back up Bielema’s assertion as Evans ranks No. 2 in the nation in receiving yards at 575 yards on just 22 catches, which comes out to 26.1 yards per catch.
The best way to slow down the powerful A&M attack will be for the Razorback offense to respond with sustained scoring drives.
“I think offensively we are wired in a way that the more we can hang onto the football, advance the chains and be efficient in the red zone with touchdowns not field goals; that is a key part,” Bielema said. “I think to beat A&M it has to be a complete game. It is not an offensive, defensive or special teams game plan. It is about how all three work together to beat a common opponent.”
Quarterback Brandon Allen did not play against Rutgers and has yet to practice this week. AJ Derby and Austin Allen took all of the reps in Tuesday’s practice. Brandon Allen is expected to get on the practice field today, but not in a passing role.
Arkansas and A&M kick off at 6 p.m. on Saturday in Fayetteville. The road game is A&M’s first of the season.