AT&T Stadium like home for former Hog Petrino

Texas A&M offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino watches the Aggies warm up before the start of an NCAA football game in College Station, Texas, in this Sept. 2, 2023 file photo. (AP/Sam Craft)

ARLINGTON, Texas — Bobby Petrino doesn’t lose in AT&T Stadium.

At least he hasn’t yet.

Petrino, Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator and the former University of Arkansas coach, improved to 5-0 in AT&T Stadium on Saturday when the Aggies beat the Razorbacks 34-22 in the Southwest Classic.

During Petrino’s 34-17 run as Arkansas’ coach over four seasons starting in 2008, his teams were 4-0 in AT&T Stadium.

Three of those games, from 2009-11, were against Texas A&M, when the game was a nonconference matchup. The Aggies later joined the Razorbacks in the SEC.

Until Saturday, Petrino’s last appearance in AT&T Stadium had been his final game as Arkansas’ coach, when the Razorbacks beat Kansas State 29-16 in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 6, 2012, to cap the 2011 season.

Petrino was fired at Arkansas a few months later for off-the-field issues.

“I think [Petrino] took whatever we were giving him and did a nice job,” Razorbacks Coach Sam Pittman said. “We made some adjustments at halftime. I thought we played a little better ball in the second half on defense. But we basically didn’t stop him in the first half.

“So his game plan was really good.”

The Aggies (4-1, 2-0 SEC) gained 414 yards in total offense on 67 plays.

Two of those plays were turnovers by quarterback Max Johnson on an interception that Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson returned for a touchdown and a lost fumble, but otherwise it was a productive and balanced game on offense for Texas A&M.

Johnson, a redshirt sophomore, completed 17 of 28 passes for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns. He replaced Conner Weigman, who is likely out for the season because of a leg injury 

The Aggies had 213 rushing yards, led by Le’Veon Moss with 17 carries for 107 yards.

“I think they can run the football,” Pittman said. “The quarterback’s a good player. He made a mistake there on the [interception] where Snaxx got it, but he’s played a lot of football. He’s the one we lost to last year.”

Johnson started last season when the Aggies beat the Razorbacks 29-27. He has 18 career starts and 44 touchdown passes at LSU and Texas A&M.

“I think they have a talented offense. I think Max Johnson is a really talented quarterback,” Arkansas junior defensive end Landon Jackson said. “Then we have to come out and play a lot better in the first half.”

Texas A&M scored on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Earnest Crownover with 13 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Aggies a 17-6 halftime lead.

The defense held the Texas A&M offense to three points in the second half, when the Aggies scored touchdowns on an interception return by Chris Russell and a punt return by Ainias Smith.

“I think we came out in the second half and played really well,” Jackson said. “But we’ve got to play a complete game.”

Jackson was Johnson’s teammate at LSU in 2021.

“I think he’s able to just read the field really well,” Jackson said. “He knows when it’s time to get out of the pocket.

“When he does, he can move a lot better than we initially thought. He’s great on his feet. He made some great throws and I think he’s overall a really good quarterback.”

Johnson completed his first seven passes for 108 yards.

“He put balls in great places and he extended plays with his feet,” Arkansas senior safety Hudson Clark said. “I think he had a really complete game.”

It was the second consecutive season Petrino has faced the Razorbacks. He was Missouri State’s coach last season when the FCS Bears gained 409 yards and threw a scare into Arkansas before the Razorbacks rallied to win 38-27 after trailing 27-17 in the fourth quarter.

Petrino left Missouri State to become offensive coordinator at UNLV for Barry Odom — the former Arkansas defensive coordinator — but three weeks later Fisher hired him to call plays at Texas A&M.

“I think Bobby’s had a great year all year,” said Fisher, who yielded play-calling duties to Petrino. “I think he’s doing a great job, called a hell of a game.

“We’ve got to execute a little bit better, and we will.”

Petrino has been available for an interview only in August and doesn’t talk to the media during the season.

Fisher was asked whether Saturday’s game had extra meaning for Petrino, given his history at Arkansas.

“I’m sure it does,” Fisher said. “I mean, [coaching] there. At the same time, you have to ask him that. But I thought Bobby called an excellent game.

“We mixed run. We had pass. We spread the ball around. We had different formation personality.”