|Updated: 9/28/2012 11:39 am
||Published: 9/28/2012 11:27 am
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - If anyone can relate to what Arkansas is going through this season, it's Texas A&M.
A year ago, the Aggies entered the season with a top-10 record and national championship aspirations before early losses sent A&M barreling toward a mediocre finish.
This year, it's the Razorbacks who are dealing with disappointment after starting the season ranked No. 8 before a shocking overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe - the first loss of a three-game skid that Arkansas brings into Saturday's game against the Aggies.
Both teams are looking for their first Southeastern Conference victory in this one, and harboring memories of last year's meeting with one another. The Aggies led 35-17 at halftime in 2011 before a second-half collapse led to a 42-38 Arkansas win.
It was the start of a seven-game winning streak for the Razorbacks.
"That was a big game for us," Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson said. "We were down 17 points, I think, at halftime, and it was like we flipped the switch right there. We came out that second half and rallied and fought and found a win it, and it turned the whole season around. It did. So, that could be a very important selling point that I'm going to preach."
Wilson was sensational in that victory, throwing for a school-record 510 yards to help beat the Aggies for the third straight time. That performance is something the Aggies vividly remember.
"This game is huge," Texas A&M linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. "Ever since we've been here, we've never beat Arkansas. We've lost to them every single year. It's huge for this senior class. We want to get our first win. We also want to get our first SEC win and our first SEC win at Kyle Field."
The game will showcase two talented quarterbacks in Wilson and Texas A&M freshman Johnny Manziel, who has accounted for 11 touchdowns in the last two games. Wilson threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions in the loss to Rutgers after missing a blowout loss to Alabama with a concussion.
"This quarterback has impressed me beyond words," Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. "He stands in there and takes a pounding and has a tremendous touch on his footballs."
Arkansas coach John L. Smith has similar feelings about Manziel, although he couldn't figure out how to pronounce his last name.
"I don't know how you say it but however you say it, he's special," Smith said after a couple of stabs at pronouncing it.
Manziel will face an Arkansas pass defense that ranks 111th in the country, and allowed Gary Nova to throw for 397 yards and five scores in Rutgers' 35-26 win last week.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin knows better than to underestimate the Razorbacks.
"I think any time you lose a quarterback of that caliber for a game-and-a-half or whatever, that can throw you off a little bit," he said. "They're coming in here and have a lot to prove. A wounded animal is maybe the most dangerous to deal with. I think it applies."
Smith hopes that having Wilson in the lineup for the second straight game will help his team get back on track.
"Now Tyler's back, hopefully we can start building that consistency and with consistency will come confidence," he said. "With a win, it will definitely help confidence."
Wilson will deal with a Texas A&M defense which is among the best in the country at pressuring quarterbacks. The Aggies led the nation with 5.33 sacks a game and junior defensive end Damontre Moore tops that group with a nation's best two sacks an outing.
He knows that Arkansas is desperate for a win, but pointed out that the Aggies also have a lot to prove in this game. Texas A&M is looking to bounce back from a 20-17 loss to No. 11 Florida in their first SEC game three weeks ago and let people know the Aggies can be competitive in the first year in this conference after leaving the Big 12.
"They just want to come out and make a statement and give us a good welcome to the SEC," Moore said. "We have to make a statement. We want to prove that we're not just bottom of the barrel, that we can hang around with the other SEC schools."
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