That is the most functional number here to serve as a reminder of how monumental this shortcoming was: these were the unanswered points allowed in a quarter and a half that facilitated one of college football’s biggest comebacks in history. There are other significant numbers scattered around the stat sheet: the Aggies’ massive rushing yard total, skewed dramatically towards the first half. The passing totals (9/30 for 89 yards as a team) that were alternatively perhaps the worst in the Sumlin era. The paltry number of carries that Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams got in the fourth quarter (3 of their combined 40 carries). The countless “what-if”s along the way: dropped interceptions, snapping the ball with way too much time left, the frantic and barely-functional quick passes...everything that Chuck touched on here.
It was all bad; all of it, it was terrible, unrelentingly disappointing, and awesome in its complete unraveling of an entire team and, subsequently, fanbase. It turned on a dime from another early solid performance to a shaky, uncertain team trying to hold it together on the road, to a complete imploding shitshow in a matter of a few moments of gametime. Josh Rosen shook off the pounding he got in the first half and showed everyone why he’s one of the most talked-about players in college football. There were moments in that third quarter that should have been calls to action for someone, anyone on the team to step forward and become a leader and that void not only went unfilled, it built upon itself and fed on the panic like a black hole, eventually eroding every last drop of confidence the team might have possessed. By the end it was just a collection of lost players shuffling around, bumping into each other harmlessly like something weightless borne aloft in a great vacuum.
Five touchdowns. Unanswered, unabated, with minimal resistance. 35 points to a team that was dead, buried, and having the headstone carved in the first half, when that one last spadeful of dirt left off by an overconfident executor proved to be the fatal flaw in this plan. Five touchdowns, furlongs of yardage allowed, mass confusion on the sideline and in the huddle, and one glaring absence: the ability, toughness, and will to finish out a game.
Keith Ford, Trayveon Williams, and the offensive line deserve credit. They came out on a mission and succeeded for about two and a half quarters. The offense rolled up close to 400 yards on the ground, although the vast majority of it came in the first half. Williams broke 200 yards, and Ford broke 100. They combined for five touchdowns. Bussey was an able third option when Ford got dinged up. UCLA eventually made adjustments and abandoned defending the pass altogether (and rightly so) to curtail the running game, but could they have stopped it altogether? We will never know because while they stacked the box against a dominant offensive line and a red-hot running back tandem, instead of exerting our dominance and proving we would continue to win the battle up front, the offense decided to trot out a series of harried, shakily-timed, jarring pass plays. They were either quick slants or outs that were mistimed, errant passes, or dropped when they were somewhat accurate, or they were deeper dropbacks designed to allow receivers to get open that resulted in Mond getting sacked or chased out of the pocket and flinging the ball away frantically. This was an all-around collapse in every way imaginable, with questions on so many fronts: personnel decisions, playcalling, strategy, clock management, everything. This was an offense that needed an identity, came out strong and established that identity, and then abandoned that identity for no apparent reason. So now it’s an offense without anything at all to hang its hat on.
If there is one other player’s numbers that stood out, it’s Armani Watts. He’s the clear keystone of this defense. The all-everything safety had 13 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery that he returned 18 yards to inside the UCLA five yard line.
We had three plays on which to score a touchdown after that quick possession change in the first quarter, and ran two fade routes and a failed draw on third down. Instead of jumping up 14-3 early and completely extinguishing the crowd, it was settling for a field goal after three plays inside the five got us a total of 2 yards. It was a microcosm of the entire game in one early series, and something we’ve all seen way too many times before.