What Arkansas football needs to change — and keep the same — with Texas A&M next

Christina Long
Fort Smith Times Record

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas football's 38-27 win over Missouri State on Saturday was ugly. The No. 11 Razorbacks (3-0) managed to escape the upset bid from the Bears (2-1), but it was much too close for comfort.

For every big play Arkansas made, it seemed to follow it up with an equally frustrating or baffling one. That leaves the Razorbacks with an odd mix of things to be proud of and things to fix as soon as possible. With an SEC matchup against No. 22 Texas A&M (2-1) next week in Arlington, Arkansas needs to make sense of this win fast.

What Arkansas has to change

Missed tackles and secondary woes: Arkansas gave up 258 passing yards to Missouri State. To the defense's credit, the Bears have one of the best quarterbacks in FCS. But if the Razorbacks are missing tackles and giving up chunk plays to Missouri State, what are they going to do against SEC speed? Arkansas could have starting nickel Myles Slusher back for Texas A&M. Pittman said he's hoping the DB could be back in practice Monday, but he isn't certain. In the meantime, Arkansas' secondary in particular has to figure out how to get guys on the ground.

Turnovers: Arkansas coughed up three turnovers against Missouri State. In their previous two games combined, the Razorbacks had one.

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Arkansas fumbled on back-to-back drives, including once into the end zone. Both plays resulted in points for Missouri State and put the Bears up 10-0 early. Quarterback KJ Jefferson later had his first interception of the season when Missouri State's Tahj Chambers took advantage of a bobbled ball by tight end Trey Knox. When SEC play gets into full swing, Arkansas can't afford multi-turnover games.

What the Razorbacks must keep the same

Feed Rocket Sanders: The win over Missouri State was the third straight in which running back Raheim Sanders had at least 100 rushing yards. He had 167 on Saturday, plus 75 receiving yards thanks to a shovel pass-turned-touchdown run. His 242 yards of total offense was the most by an Arkansas running back since Darren McFadden had more than 300 in 2007.

Sanders has accounted for 38% of the Razorbacks' total offensive yardage this season. Arkansas needs Sanders to keep up his high production as it dives into physical SEC play.

Sacks on sacks: Arkansas had eight sacks against Missouri State, bringing its season total to 17. Linebacker Drew Sanders led the team with 2.5 sacks and 12 total tackles Saturday. He leads the Razorbacks in both stats for the season, too. Defensive lineman Jordan Domineck had a pair of sacks against the Bears, too.

Getting to the quarterback was a point of emphasis this offseason, and so far, it looks like the Razorbacks have made big strides in that department. If they can keep it up going forward, it might help cover some of the other defensive woes.

Christina Long covers the Arkansas Razorbacks for the Southwest Times Record and USA Today Network. You can follow her on Twitter @christinalong00 or email her at clong@swtimes.com.