The Texas Aggies played their hearts out, all the way through overtime as they brilliantly defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks, in overtime, with a 35-28 victory on Sept. 27, 2014. The first half of the game was a struggle, the third quarter was not pretty, but it’s how you stay in the game that counts, as evidenced in a phenomenal victory in the midst of “Jerry World.”
The Aggies were 5-0 (2-0, conference) coming into Arlington’s ATT Center but they were neither overconfident, nor were they scared. And despite Arkansas’ record (3-2, 0-2), there was every reason to fear that this would be the game where they came through like gangbusters and ruin the Aggies record. And, they almost did. More than twice they had the Aggies at bay, but Aggies being Aggies, they would not give up.
Realistically, the armchair quarterbacks and those who live and breathe Aggie football might be quick to point out missed catches, bad throws, and several key missed tackles on the part of the Aggies. Undoubtedly, the Arkansas Razorbacks played outstanding football and had several plays that could easily be considered “play of the game,” and yet, that didn’t matter in the end.
And, if you were inclined to cluck your town, slam down your soda (or other) can in sheer disgust on a few Aggie plays that are best called “heartbreaking” and “potentially the ones that ended the game,” you’d have been dead wrong. Rule #1: Never count the Aggies out until that final second on the clock ticks off.
This year’s fightin’ Texas Aggie team plays the game with presence, confidence, self-assurance and that leadership begins with every player dressed out for the game, on the field and on the bench. And it is reinforced in the coaching staff and rests on the shoulders of the two men at the top, quarterback Kenny Hill and Head Coach Sumlin.
For every single player who had a chance to convert a third down and didn’t, at some other point in the game, they made up for it with game-winning plays across the board. There was the Josh Reynolds big miss. Then there was the Josh Reynolds victorious catch. There was a Josh Lambo missed field goal, but there’s also all the field goals he’s made all season before this game. There was the big Edward Pope missed catch. There was the big Edward Pope victorious catch. There were the Kenny Hill passes that didn’t find a receiver. There were Kenny Hill touchdown passes, four in fact. No Aggie quit playing with their entire hearts throughout every minute of the game.
Kenny Hill completed 21 of 41 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns. Nine Aggie receivers (Edward Pope, Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones, Malcome Kennedy, Sabian Holmes, Trey Williams, Speedy Noil, Jeremy Tabuyo, and Tra Carson) were on the other side of Kenny Trill. Arkansas’ Brandon Allen was 15 of 27 for 199 yards and one touchdown pass. Leading receivers Hunter Henry and AJ Derby made some great catches.
The Arkansas offense was great and the youthful inexperience of the Aggie defense showed a few weaknesses but they never gave up. Aggie fans have every reason to be proud of a defense with strength and endurance all the way through the fourth quarter and far into overtime, where Arkansas was denied a first down, much less a touchdown. The Aggie defense would not be denied. Their play was determined, powerful, and unified.
For every play the Aggies missed, the sideline coaches uniformly remained calm. No thrown clipboards, no ugly stares, just reassurance and patience was the theme for the day. As the players who missed plays came to the sidelines, they were greeted by the coaches with a smile and a pat on the helmet like “you’ll get it next time.” Despite the CBS cameras constantly focusing attention on the Aggie sidelines to watch reactions of those observing there, each coaching staff member and current player stood like the 12th Man always does: strong and proud.
It was with that level of coaching that the Aggies were fueled with determination not to quit. After Arkansas’ punter Sam Irwin-Hill skunked the Aggies with his touchdown off a fake punt, the Aggies could have become demoralized. They didn’t. They just played harder. Kenny Hill had some snaps of the ball coming to him so high that even if he’d been 8 feet tall, he’d have had to stretch, but he scrambled, ran, threw, and directed traffic with the same continuing calm throughout the game.
Hill has an on-field skill that belies his age, and an off-the-field humility and gracious presence that shows how much class he possesses. Postgame, Hill said of their halftime strategy, “We came together as a team. We knew we had to make some more plays, and we did it.” Malcome Kennedy said, “I was just thinking about last year’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl and how we came back, and that was what I was thinking we needed to do, just come back.”
Defensive standouts included Deshazor Everett, who despite taking a hard fall, came out with 7 solo tackles and 9 assists; De’Vante Harris had 5 solo tackles and 5 assists, and Howard Matthews had 4 solo tackles and 3 assists. Armani Watts had 1 solid tackle and 4 assists and Julien Obioha had a great game. Arkansas controlled the ball for 37 minutes compared to the Aggies’ 23 minutes, but in the end the points on the board told the story of the big win.
Social media comments postgame suggested yet another nickname for the Aggie quarterback: Kenny Clutch, because he came through to assure the victory. After the game, the CBS reporter asked Kenny what he said to his team to keep them going. His reply was that he asked his team to trust him. He trusted them and he asked them to trust him. He shared that he knew Coach Sumlin had this. He said, “Trust me, I promise I’ve got y’all.” And they all functioned together at a steady and confident pace and play-by-play, they got it done.
Malcome Kennedy had his shoulder relocated to a new zip code, but after being out of the game for a series, you blinked, looked up and he was back, refusing to acknowledge pain. He would turn out to be the one to make the catch from Hill and turn it into a one-play overtime 25-yard touchdown.
In the locker room after the game, as the video shows, the speech Coach Sumlin gave was succinct and filled with pride in his team. Sumlin said:
Hey, get up here! What a great, great–not good–a great team victory. It took everybody! It took offense! (‘Whoop!’) It took special teams! (‘Whoop!’) It took defense! (even louder ‘Whoop!’).” Chaos and joy ensued.
After four quarters and overtime play today, the popular meme “Keep Calm and Carry On” could be refashioned into an Aggie motto “Kevin Sumlin and Kenny Hill Remain Calm, Aggies Carry On (to Victory).” “Watch The Truth: It Took Everybody” on YouTube and soak up some of that Aggie joy. Yes, sir!