NORMAN — College football needs a Texas A&M-UCLA every once in a while, if only to just to wake guys up.
The Aggies overpowered the Bruins for 2 ½ quarters on Sunday night, built a 44-10 lead, then gave up five unanswered touchdowns to lose 45-44. The 34-point deficit has been called the second-largest in major college history overcome for victory.
Coaches love games like this.
“Yeah. Absolutely,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said during his weekly press conference on Monday ahead of this week’s showdown at Ohio State. “Stuff like that is good for our guys to see. Because there’s situations you talk about, and you talk about the general mentality of having to finish games, or on the other side never giving up and never thinking you’re out of it.
“But when they actually see it happen with someone else, it’s more real.”
With his mind on the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes, senior safety Steven Parker said A&M-UCLA was a “conversation for a different day.” But he also said games like that serve as powerful teaching tools for players around the country.
“That’s exactly what it does,” Parker said. “It basically just tells you don’t let your foot off the gas and don’t ever relax. Don’t ever let a team see you relaxing on a play or sleeping on a play. That’s what we remind ourselves every single day because we don’t ever want to go through a loss like that.”
“On the A&M side,” said quarterback Baker Mayfield, “never take your foot off the gas. You never want to take a team lightly. No matter who it is, you’ve still got to go do your job. And no matter who is in. That’s a big reason why I was so excited that when I came out (of the game at halftime on Saturday against UTEP) and there was a ton of young guys in, that we still executed well. No matter who’s in the game, you’ve still got to go do your job.
“And then at the same time, UCLA, never give up no matter what the score is. There’s still a lot of ball left and you never know what’s going to happen. So, just keep doing your job and good things will happen.”
It’s not only the players who can learn. After A&M extended its lead to 34 points, the Aggies threw 18 passes and ran the ball just seven times. Flip that ratio and all those incomplete passes don’t stop the clock, and UCLA’s last drive never happens. It’s a teaching tool for coaches, too.
Riley acknowledged that watching the comeback unfold was shocking.
“Yeah, it was,” he said. “There was some momentum that obviously A&M had, and flipped back over pretty quick. But yeah, crazy stuff can happen. That’s why, again, they’re never over, and if you’re on the tough side of it, you’re never out of the fight.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.