Texas A&M and UCLA have history. It’s not much on the massive scale of intricate college football matchups, but the series is going into its sixth game in a couple of weeks, so it’s there. The Aggies hold the overall edge 3 wins to 2. Last year was the first time the teams had played in College Station. The previous meeting was the 1998 Cotton Bowl. Before that, the teams met three times between 1940 and 1955, all three times out west in LA. The Ags took the first two meetings, but lost the last time the team traveled out there in 1955. It was Bear Bryant’s second year.
Bear’s boys went 1-9 in his first season. A rouuugh stretch for the guys who’d survived the Junction washout. What was their reward? Oh just traveling across half the country, across deserts and mountains to a place probably none of them had ever seen before, to face the number one team in the nation. The Bruins had absolutely dominated the 1954 season, finishing undefeated and, apart from a 21-20 squeaker against Washington, blowing out every opponent they faced. They recorded four shutouts in conference play, including a 34-0 drubbing of then-#7 USC in their rivalry game.
So they were good, is what we’re remembering here. Red Sanders was in his seventh year as the head coach and they were a powerful machine humming along steadily. A tall order for a second-year coach still trying to find a rhythm.
The Aggies lost, 21-0. (But hey! We did it WITH CLASS as you can read in this piece about the 1955 Aggie Band)
"Here's a belated salute to Texas A. & M.'s 240 piece band. It's a lulu, being even superior to the vaunted Big Ten bands when it comes to precision marching. Ten minutes before the kickoff the great Aggie Band held the big crowd spellbound with a rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" the likes of which they had never heard. I still say the Aggie Band comes as close to playing it the way Francis Scott Key intended it to be played as any band I've ever heard."
A LULU, FOLKS.
E.V. Adams, director of bands at the time, said he got a lot of correspondence about that trip but was most proud of the letter he received from the manager of the hotel where the band stayed in Los Angeles. "He said we were the only college group that stayed in the hotel that hadn't taken anything when they left. Not even a wash cloth was missing."
FEEL THAT CLASSINESS JUST COURSING THROUGH YOUR VEINS IT FEELS SO DAMN GOOD.
So it could’ve been worse, but it definitely wasn’t great. On the field, that is. UCLA had another top-5 finish and would go on to dismantle other teams in a far worse manner. (BONUS TRIVIA: their game against Washington that year is referenced in Back To The Future II) But the Aggies didn’t stay down long. The very next week they played #16 LSU in Dallas, and stomped them 28-0. A few weeks later they shut out Nebraska in Lincoln. In fact, they wouldn’t lose another game until Thanksgiving and reached a #8 ranking by season’s end. They could’ve rolled over after getting shut out in LA, but didn’t. That’s what modern-day football announcers call “mennul tufniss.”
Whatever happens out in LA in a few weeks, let’s just hope that people have fun remembering it sixty years from now. It might be the start of a memorable season.