The early parts of the Texas A&M-Arkansas matchup last year did not bode well for the Aggies’ chances. The Max Johnson-led offense was struggling in only his second game as starter, and the Hogs connected on two deep passes to take a 14-0 lead. Achane would lead the Texas A&M football team to a quick scoring drive in response, but it was this play that signaled that things were going to go crazy.
Coming into this game, there was a lot of talk about Arkansas’s pass rush and run game, as the Aggie OL was struggling in pass protection and defense was already showing signs of how sieve-like they would end up being against the run in ’22. Despite this, the Aggies actually availed themselves well against the Hogs in both these areas, allowing 3 sacks (when the Hogs had been averaging almost 6 per game through their first 3 contests) and exceeding Arkansas’s mark in yards per carry (5.7 to 4.5). This was also only about 89% of Arkansas’s season average when it comes to YPC, so the Aggies were one of the more successful teams in defending the Arkansas rush game. This tracks with DC DJ Durkin’s reputation, though, as he is known for his aptitude against the type of power spread run game that Arkansas ran under now-TCU OC Kendal Briles.
Overall, Arkansas underachieved somewhat last season—one of the lowlights of the year was a home loss to Hugh Freeze’s Liberty squad—but ended the season on a high with a win over a high-flying Kansas offense in the Liberty Bowl. Still, though, their win total regressed from 9 to 7, and some high-profile transfers didn’t pan out quite to the level that was expected. Former five-star and Oklahoma signee Jadon Haselwood received a large share of targets, but didn’t live up to his blue-chip pedigree. LB Drew Sanders racked up sacks aplenty, but didn’t prove to be a force in the middle against the run, and was outshone by freshman Harold Perkins in a close game against LSU. DB Myles Slusher—who has now departed for Colorado via the portal—led a pass defense that allowed every team but two to exceed their season average YPA.
I could go on, but you get the picture. Arkansas was thought to be one of the biggest beneficiaries from the portal this past season, and it ended up not quite shaking out the way they had hoped. That’s a thought that has to be scary for Hog fans for this upcoming season, as it can be argued that they lost more than they gained via the portal in the offseason.