Hogs look to tame Aggie run game, dynamic Kellen Mond

The 2-2 Razorbacks take on their fourth top-25 ranked opponent of the season on Saturday as they travel to College Station to play No. 8 3-1 Texas A&M. Both teams are coming off bye weeks.

The Hogs got as healthy as they could during the open week and should have almost everyone back to face the Ags.

After breaking the SEC losing streak and the home SEC losing streak in the first four games of the season, Arkansas now has sights set on the 8-game losing streak with A&M, which is tied for the Hogs’ 5th longest losing streak against a single opponent. They’ll have chances to snap a 13-game and 9-game losing streak, against Alabama and Florida respectively, later this season.

The Razorbacks have had a chance to win each of the last sixth matchups against A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Three of those games went to overtime, two more ended with Arkansas driving to tie or win and the other was tight until Texas A&M had a goal line stop before scoring a 92-yard touchdown.

A win over A&M would signal to the entire college football sphere that Arkansas football is officially, legitimately back.

But getting a win is not going to be easy. The Hogs are 12-point dogs currently, according to Vegas.

Arkansas’s nation-leading defense in interceptions and defensive scores will need to make more magic against the Aggies’ efficient offense if they hope to win.

A&M senior quarterback Kellen Mond has completed 61.5% of his passes this season, consistent with his 2019 average but he’s passing for more yards per game and more yards per completion in 2020. He’s only taken two sacks and thrown two picks with nine touchdown passes.

Mond is not going on the move nearly as much as he has in the past, with just 46 yards on the ground so far. It’s a change Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman’s recognized.

“He’s staying in the pocket better than I’ve ever seen him,” Pittman said in his Monday press conference. “He’s making plays. I think he’s playing really well. He’s comfortable back there. I think he’s getting rid of the ball faster than maybe he has in the past. I just think he’s a lot better quarterback than he’s ever been just obviously with reps and years, but I also give that offensive line a lot of credit.”

The Aggie starting offensive line is made up of four seniors and one sophomore (a former 5-star). Pittman said it’s the best line he’s seen in College Station in a while.

Monds top targets this season are running back Ainias Smith, wide receiver Chase Lane and tight end Jalen Wydermyer. Third leading receiver Caleb Chapman went down for the season against Florida but that has opened up opportunities for some young guys to step. Likely to get his first major action of the season is former 5-star true freshman Demond Demas, the No. 2 receiver in Rivals’ 2020 class.

The Aggie run game is the biggest area of concern for the Arkansas defense on Saturday. The Razorbacks are currently giving up 177 rushing yards per game and will face the SEC’s second-leading rusher Isaiah Spiller. Spiller’s averaging 103 yards per game and has four rushing touchdowns. Alabama’s been the only defense to contain him so far, holding him to 25 yards on 11 carries.

Defensively, A&M’s strength is in its defensive line and stopping the run. The Aggies are just behind Georgia in rushing yards per game (75.5). while their pass defense is middle of the road.

The Ags have four interceptions on the season compared to Arkansas’s 10. Led by senior defensive end Michael Clemons with three sacks, Texas A&M has 10 total in 2020, compared to Arkansas’s nine.

Tackle stats are led by senior linebackers Buddy Johnson and Aaron Hansford.

“Their front guys are quick, they plug a lot of linebackers. They’re not going to sit there and be stagnant,” Pittman said. “Their safeties are almost like outside/inside linebackers coming down to the ball. They’ve got them playing really well and with a lot of confidence. You can just feel it watching tape on them. They’ve really been doing a good job. They’re a big, physical team that can run.”

Arkansas and A&M kickoff from Kyle Field at 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network.

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