ARLINGTON, Texas — Kenny Hill and No. 6 Texas A&M provided quite a late thrill.
After throwing two long touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, Hill hit Malcome Kennedy for a 25-yard score on the first play of overtime and Julien Obioha made the game-ending defensive stop for the undefeated Aggies in a 35-28 victory over Arkansas on Saturday.
“We just made the connection on that one,” Hill said of the game-winning pass. “They had the defender getting there late, and I threw it to him. He took care of the rest.”
Johnny Manziel was on hand with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns on a bye week, and the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner got to see his Aggies improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2001. He also provided plenty of encouragement for Hill, who was 21 for 41 for 386 yards and four touchdowns.
“He was just kind of trying to get us pumped,” Hill said. “He was doing the same thing, telling me, ‘You got this. You got this. Go lead this team down there.’ And then right after the game he was saying, ‘Great game! I love you, bro.’”
The Aggies (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed 28-14 before Hill hit Edward Pope for an 86-yard pass when defensive back Jared Collins fell down and left the receiver running all alone. Hill then found Josh Reynolds for a tying 59-yard TD with 2:08 left, only two plays after Arkansas missed a field goal.
Texas A&M had a chance to end the game in regulation, getting the ball back with 1:18 left and no timeouts. Kennedy’s 13-yard catch provided a quick first down, but the Aggies let the clock run out when facing fourth-and-13 short of midfield — before Kennedy caught the quick strike in overtime.
“In order to win a game like that, it takes a complete team. Every phase had its poor moments in the first half. Offensively, we were a beat off. Defensively, we gave up some big plays, and special teams, we gave up a fake,” coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Our defense stopped them not just in overtime, but on the last couple series.”
On its overtime possession, Arkansas (3-2, 0-2) had fourth-and-1 when a handoff went to Alex Collins, who finished with 131 yards rushing. But Collins was stuffed at the line by Obioha, who was quickly joined by a swarm of Aggie defenders.
“I didn’t do anything different. The running back bounced to my side,” Obioha said.
Arkansas (3-2, 0-2), the only unranked team in the SEC West, has lost 14 consecutive conference games since 2012.
This one was particularly painful.
The Razorbacks had a touchdown pass in the second quarter wiped out by a holding call against Dan Skipper, and a tripping penalty on the left tackle in the final period erased a 55-yard run by Jonathan Williams to the Aggies 3.
The Razorbacks wound up punting after both penalties, the second leading to Pope’s second TD catch, the 86-yarder that sparked the A&M comeback.
“A lot of things that caused us to lose this game today came from within our locker room,” Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema said. “Our third edge we talk about is playing clean, and that means playing penalty-free. ... The good news is we can correct those things. Our guys did several things throughout the course of the game to get excited about. But obviously, not enough to close it.”
Australian punter Sam Irwin-Hill ran 51 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown on a fake punt, and Brandon Allen turned a fake handoff into an easy scoring pass for the Razorbacks, who haven’t beaten an SEC opponent since a 49-7 win over Kentucky on Oct. 13, 2012.
Allen was 15-of-27 passing for 199 yards, including his 44-yard TD to wide-open AJ Derby after the quarterback faked a handoff, and then briefly held the ball to his side before throwing downfield for a 28-14 lead with 5 minutes left in the third.
The big run by Irwin-Hill put the Razorbacks up 21-14 at halftime.
On fourth-and-10 just short of midfield, he took the snap and swept left to a wide-open part of the field. Several teammates caught up and ran with him to the end zone, and it appeared that only one Texas A&M player even got a hand on the sprinting punter.
“They gave us a look that we wanted. ... And I triggered it,” Bielema said. “Good job on some downfield blocks, but obviously not enough to win the game.”