Rapid reaction: Texas A&M blows lead late, wins in OT
Texas A&M opened the 2016 season with a big 31-24 overtime victory over No. 16 UCLA in front of 100,000-plus at Kyle Field. The Aggies unveiled a new up-tempo offense and a new, yet veteran quarterback. It was also the beginning of the second season under DC John Chavis, who continues to improve the Aggies’ defense.
What it means: It was an important victory over a ranked team, and a much-needed win after the way Texas A&M finished last season. Normally, it would give Aggies fans reason for high expectations for the rest of the season. But we’ve seen this scenario played out before, big wins early only to stumble down the stretch and finish in somewhat disappointing fashion. So while this was a big victory for a new quarterback, a new system and an ever-improving defense, Aggies fans will remain cautiously optimistic.
What I liked: The best way to stop a big-time passer is to pressure him. The Aggies were able to do that. With the emphasis on keeping Aggies DEs Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall out of the UCLA backfield, Chavis dialed up some corner blitzes and other things to keep Bruins QB Josh Rosen under pressure for most of the game. The Aggies recorded five sacks and intercepted Rosen three times. Aggies QB Trevor Knight showed good leadership in his first start at College Station. The graduate transfer from Oklahoma was able to move the team up and down the field through three quarters, showing an ability to run OC Noel Mazzone’s up-tempo offense. It’s an offense that highlights a running game which featured strong efforts from both Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford, also a transfer from Oklahoma.
What I didn’t like: Pass defense must be cleaned up. While the Aggies were able to pressure Rosen throughout the game, he was still able to find open receivers on more of a consistent basis than is comfortable. Fortunately for Texas A&M, UCLA receivers committed some key drops, putting the Bruins’ offense in trouble.
Who’s the man: Justin Evans was all over the field on Saturday. The Aggies DB came up with two big interceptions in addition to recording eight tackles, including a team-high six assists.
Key play(s): You know things are going your way when you can make a poor throw off your back foot, and it not only doesn’t get intercepted, but is hauled in by one of your skilled receivers and taken for a touchdown. That was the case late in the third quarter when Knight lofted a prayer that despite being woefully underthrown, was nevertheless hauled in by Josh Reynolds, who came back to make the catch and get into the end zone to complete the 40-yard touchdown play. It put the Aggies in front 24-9 late in the third quarter. UCLA completed a similar play late in the fourth quarter during its furious rally.
What’s next: The Aggies are at home for the second week in a row to open the 2016 season. They will host Prairie View A&M next Saturday in an 11 a.m. CT kickoff at Kyle Field. It will be the final tuneup for Texas A&M before opening SEC play at Auburn on Sept. 17.