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OPINION | WALLY HALL: A&M defense will give Arkansas supreme test

by Wally Hall | September 22, 2021 at 2:35 a.m.

All indications are it will be a low-scoring, head-knocking game Saturday when the Arkansas Razorbacks host Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas.

Low scoring gives the Razorbacks a better shot and probably why the betting line is just 6.

The Razorbacks have had some big offensive plays in their first three games, probably more than the previous three years combined.

However, friends who have seen the Aggies say they are reminding them of the old Wrecking Crew under R.C. Slocum.

A&M has allowed just 17 points in three games and zero passing touchdowns.

That's a lockdown defense.

When they shut out New Mexico last Saturday -- this is the program that hasn't had a winning season since 2016 -- they only allowed the Lobos to get into A&M territory twice.

They held the Lobos to 122 yards of total offense, just 33 through the air.

In their season opener, Kent State's lone touchdown was in the fourth quarter.

They have gone seven quarters without allowing a score. They are first in the nation in defensive scoring, allowing just 5.7 points per game.

They have not played an opponent like Texas. If Colorado was their toughest opponent, consider the Buffaloes just got shut out 30-0 by Minnesota.

More than likely Jimbo Fisher is going to have at least five in the box, maybe more, on every down, hoping to force the Razorbacks to pass.

The Razorbacks have been tested at least once, and their defense has been solid so far.

Texas managed only four drives into Arkansas territory and two of those were when the game was decided, and Sam Pittman and Barry Odom were getting playing time for some backups.

Arkansas is trying to start faster on offense, but its defense has not allowed a score in the first quarter yet.

The Razorbacks are a pound-the-ground team. but Fisher said he was concerned about their ability to make big plays through the air.

Last Saturday against Georgia Southern, Arkansas' touchdown drives were 4 plays for 73 yards, 15 plays for 99 yards, 7 plays for 99 yards, 4 plays for 80 yards, 1 play for 91 yards and 12 plays for 66 yards.

The lone field goal came after a 7-play, 73-yard drive.

The Razorbacks were 5 for 5 in the red zone.

What that boils down to is, yes, they have big-play potential ,but they can grind it for first downs and run the clock, too.

No doubt, the Aggies will be the Razorbacks' biggest challenge of the season.

And they will be the Aggies' biggest challenge.

Starting quarterback King Hayes was lost for the season early in the Colorado game, but backup Zach Calzada stepped in against the Lobos and played well against a mediocre team.

He completed 19 of 33 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns and had one pick.

The foundation for the Aggies, though, is still their defense, which returned nine starters from a team that was 9-1 with its only loss coming at the hands of undefeated and eventual national champion Alabama.

Since that loss, they are riding an 11-0 win streak.

In that time, only two teams have scored more than 20 points against A&M -- Florida 38 and Arkansas 31, both of course were last season.

Fisher, during his Monday news conference, had a lot of good things to say about KJ Jefferson, and he should.

After an opening set of jitters in the first half against Rice, the redshirt sophomore quarterback has been improving with almost every series.

Arkansas' running attack is deep and varied.

Yet, the biggest improvement from last season to this season is the defense.

Saturday they will be tested, especially the cornerbacks in what should be a low-scoring but highly-entertaining game.

Print Headline: A&M defense will give Arkansas supreme test

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