FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Neither rain nor an inspired effort by the Arkansas Razorbacks could keep 10th-ranked Texas A&M from finding a way to continue winning on the road.
A powerful running game and a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown by junior free safety Deshazor Everett powered the Aggies to a 45-33 Southeastern Conference victory on Saturday night at Razorback Stadium.
A&M (4-1, 1-1) won its ninth straight away from Kyle Field, including all five of its SEC road games since joining the league. Arkansas (3-2, 0-1), a two-touchdown underdog, gave a sellout crowd of 72,613 plenty to cheer about until A&M senior cornerback Tramain Jacobs knocked away a fourth-down pass by Arkansas’ Brandon Allen with 6 minutes, 46 seconds left.
“Anytime you go on the road and win in this league, it’s a good win,” A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “I thought our defense did enough to win the game.”
A&M’s defense gave up 201 yards rushing, the fourth time this season the Aggies have allowed an opponent to top 200. A&M also allowed 282 yards passing and three touchdowns, but the Aggies never allowed Arkansas to take the lead.
Arkansas scored the last 10 points of the first half to pull within 24-20, but A&M’s defense came up with the game’s first turnover on the third play of the third quarter.
Everett, who moved to safety last week, stepped in front of intended receiver Keon Hatcher and returned the interception for his second defensive touchdown of the year. Everett had a 12-yard fumble recovery return for a score in last week’s 42-13 victory over SMU.
“They threw the ball a lot more than you’d think they would,” Everett said. “That really slowed us down, but we had to keep playing ball, and we just trusted the front and linebackers and did our job in the first half.”
Allen, who returned after missing the last seven quarters with a shoulder injury, was only 7-of-18 passing for 114 yards with two interceptions in the second half, including 2 of 10 in the fourth quarter, after opening 10 of 18 for 168 yards and two scores.
“A critical point for us was we knew we needed to score every time we had it and had to monopolize the ball,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “I thought Brandon Allen was outstanding, to come in the way he did with a limited amount of practice was impressive.”
Allen’s hiccup was just enough for the balanced Aggies, who didn’t have a turnover, as quarterback Johnny Manziel had 320 total yards, but the Heisman winner had plenty of help as A&M rushed for 262 yards led by sophomore running back Trey Williams, who had 83 yards on nine second-half carries. Sophomore transfer running back Tra Carson added 64 yards on nine carries.
Sophomore wide receiver Mike Evans had 116 yards on six receptions with two scores and senior wide receiver Derel Walker added seven catches for 81 yards.
Manziel had 59 yards on nine carries to go along with 20-of-30 passing for 261 yards and two scores. He was only sacked once against Arkansas, which led the country with 14 entering the game.
“Their offense is very good and Johnny Manziel, no matter what anybody says about him, he is a great player,” said Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith, who had half a sack in the game. “He made plays and created some plays at times.”
Manziel was able to lean on his running backs after Everett’s interception.
Trey Williams and Carson combined for all the carries on a nine-play, 68-yard drive that gave A&M a 38-27 lead after the Aggie defense had held Arkansas without a first down.
Allen bounced back from his interception to complete back-to-back passes to tight end Hunter Henry for 21 and 26 yards before freshman running back Alex Collins dashed 9 yards to make it 31-27. Collins ended with 116 yards on 14 carries for his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
Arkansas pulled within 38-33 near the end of third quarter on a 19-yard pass to running back Jonathan Williams, but Allen misfired on the two-point conversion.
The defenses traded stops to start the fourth quarter before A&M grinded out another seven-play, 57-yard drive capped by Ben Malena’s 1-yard run to make it 45-33.
Arkansas reached the A&M 16 with a first down, but Allen threw four straight incompletions.
“I thought they had an excellent plan,” Sumlin said. “They kept us off-balance, wheel routes, reverses. You name it. We got the kitchen sink tonight.”
Each team punted only once in the first half as the former Southwest Conference rivals played in the Hills for the first time since 1990.
A&M’s offense had an explosive start with Manziel and Evans hooking up to start and end a six-play, 75-yard drive. The first pass down the middle went for 49 yards, then Arkansas paid for giving Manziel too much time to find Evans for a 9-yard score on third-and-4.
Arkansas answered in nine plays, covering a fourth down and a pair of third downs, including a 12-yard pass to Hatcher for a score.
Malena gave A&M a 14-7 lead with a 2-yard run to cap a nine-play, 75-yard drive highlighted by Manziel’s 20-yard run on third-and-10, followed by Carson’s 19-yard rumble to the 2.
A&M had to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Josh Lambo to make it 17-7, though the defense got the ball back at the Aggie 46 after the lone three-and-out of the half.
Arkansas scored on its last three possessions of the first half.
A&M’s defense held for a 28-yard field goal by Arkansas’ Zach Hocker after Henry had a 52-yard reception to the A&M 17.
Arkansas had a 17-play, 82-yard drive on its next possession, scoring on a 19-yard catch by Williams with 6:02 left. That pulled the Razorbacks within 24-17, answering the nine-play, 75-yard drive that A&M had capped with Evans’ 7-yard reception.
Arkansas scored the last points of the half, crawling out of a hole following A&M’s Drew Kaser’s punt to the Razorbacks’ 6 with 1:59 left. A 38-yard run by Collins and a 12-yard pass to Eric Hawkins led to Hocker’s field goal.