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, once again, offering little resistance to a Texas A&M offense that piled up 716 yards behind quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Razorbacks gained 515 yards of their own, but managed to just 10 points thanks to three turnovers and red zone woes.
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 as it tried to recover from 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 failed Saturday.
Arkansas has been outscored 110-10 in two SEC games.
“It was back to where it was against Alabama, unfortunately,” Wilson said. “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 — lost control Saturday behind 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 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 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.
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. 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 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.”
The 58 points allowed were Arkansas’ third-highest in an SEC game. It also is the first time the Razorbacks have allowed 50 points or more in consecutive SEC games.
“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. “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.”