Usually, a 44-10 lead late in the third quarter is enough to win a game. Not Monday night at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA rallied from that deficit with five touchdowns – including four Josh Rosen scoring passes – in the final 17 minutes to stun Texas A&M 45-44 and increase the heat on Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin.
The rally was one point short of tying the NCAA record: Michigan State rallied from 35 down to beat Northwestern in 2006. The Spartans trailed 38-3 with 9:54 left in the third quarter to win 41–38.
Texas A&M has been known for starting seasons strong, then collapsing late. Monday night, the Aggies did all that in just 60 minutes.
“You don’t explain it,” Sumlin told reporters afterward. “We’re not making excuses for anything. We didn’t get it done as coaches.”
The Aggies lost despite rushing for 382 yards; A&M rushed for 286 yards in the first half. A&M also lost starting quarterback Nick Starkel to an undisclosed leg injury in the third quarter; Starkel was on the sideline on crutches in the fourth quarter.
Backup Kellen Mond already had played as a sort of change-of-pace guy, but while Mond is considered a dual-threat quarterback, he is better as a runner than passer. Mond rushed for 54 yards but was 3-of-17 for 27 yards through the air. Once Starkel left the game, the A&M offense bogged down. The Aggies finished 9-of-30 through the air.
Rosen finished 35-of-59 for 491 yards and four TDs. Tight end Caleb Williams was his favorite target; he abused A&M linebackers and defensive backs to the tune of 15 catches for 208 yards. Rosen was 9-of-23 for 114 yards in the first half.
A&M had two backs rush for 100 yards. Trayveon Williams had 22 carries for 203 yards and two TDs, and Keith Ford rushed for 114 yards and three TDs on 18 carries.
The Aggies led 38-10 at halftime, then added two third-quarter field goals to build the 34-point advantage before the Rosen onslaught. UCLA’s final five scoring drives were a combined 396 yards.
Texas A&M’s run defense and its cornerbacks were issues last season. UCLA didn’t have much success running the ball Monday night, but in the second half, Rosen sliced and diced the Aggies’ secondary.
Sumlin entered the season on the hot seat, and that pressure obviously will increase. He is due a $10 million buyout if he is let go before January 1, 2018.
Texas A&M will look to rebound the next two weeks with easy games against FCS member Nicholls State and UL Lafayette, but then comes a four-week stretch of SEC games: Arkansas, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida.
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