TAEK #1 - A CALL FOR THE AGES.
This was a game that Kevin Sumlin and A&M absolutely had to win. There was no way around it, and make no mistake, Texas fans were rooting hard against the Aggies (despite not being our rival) to keep up the narrative that A&M under Sumlin is "soft" and undisciplined. They were disappointed. If anything, the game was evidence of the opposite. The Aggies stopped the run, minimized mistakes, and kept their cool when faced with adversity. In the end, faced with 4th and goal from the one yard line with everything on the line, Sumlin and A&M flexed big brass balls and punched it in. That's as tough as it gets.
(By comparison, when faced with the same call in overtime during 1998 Big 12 Championship game, R.C. Slocum kicked the field goal)
TAEK #2 - MAZZONE STICKS TO HIS GUNS
The past three seasons, A&M fans (myself included) have been frustrated with the offensive coaching staff's tendency to get too clever by half in big moments. That's a nice way of saying that sometimes you have to RUN THE DAMN BALL! Yesterday Noel Mazzone showed us that he isn't afraid to line up and play strength on strength. As mattywatty01 stated, if it ain't broke, Mazzone won't fix it. In A&M's overtime possession Mazzone didn't get cute, he stayed in his scheme. Even better, after several quick passes moved the Aggies to the UCLA 5, he kept the faith. Starting with 3rd and 1 from the 5, Mazzone dialed up 5 straight running plays. No throwback TE screen. No fade. No bootleg. NO WASTED PLAYS. Mazzone put the game in his players' hands, and the players came through.
TAEK #3 - A GREAT GAME BETWEEN TWO GOOD TEAMS
TAEK: This is a good game between two good teams #UCLAvsTAMU— Lucas Jackson (@CoolHand_Lucas) September 3, 2016
This was a war, and both teams were prepared for it. UCLA knew A&M would bring pressure, so they were determined to run the football. A&M knew it had to stop the run and force Rosen to make throws under pressure and force turnovers. UCLA knew A&M would focus on the quick passing game, so they worked to keep everything in front of them. A&M knew UCLA would take away the quick game, so they adjusted by running the ball with Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams. It was great contest between two well coached teams, and the Aggies made the final winning adjustments in overtime, with a great call on Trevor Knight's 1 yard keeper.
2016 UCLA is not 2015 Arizona State. They played a solid game, and despite Josh Rosen's three interceptions, I came away very impressed by his performance. Rosen what we thought Kyle Allen would be. He made a few poor throws, but he didn't shy away or fold under the relentless pressure dialed up by A&M. Rather, he got better as the game progressed. Also, UCLA put a veteran defense on the field, which aside from a huge grab by the ever-underrated Josh Reynolds, didn't give up a big play all day long. The Bruins aren't paper tigers, and Rosen will keep them in the mix for the Pac 12 South title.
THE FINAL TAEKAWAY
Negative narratives are easy to establish, and nearly impossible to eradicate. Going into this season, Kevin Sumlin and the A&M program have been saddled with the idea that A&M football is all swag and no substance. Arguments can be made as to whether that reputation is deserved, but it doesn't matter, the narrative is set. The only way to change that is winning games against good teams, and yesterday was a solid first step in doing so, but much more work remains to be done.
Before yesterday, fans and media believed that Sumlin and A&M's 2016 story had already been written. In the coming weeks we'll see if the Aggies can maintain the effort and toughness they showed yesterday, but one thing is clear: nothing is written.