As much as Johnny Manziel will forever live in the lore of college football as one of the most exciting and polarizing players in the history of the sport, the legacy of Texas A&M football under Kevin Sumlin may be remembered by one hot and rainy afternoon at the Rose Bowl in 2017.
By now, every Aggie reading this has shuddered at the mere memory of that fateful day against UCLA. It was the beginning of the end of Sumlin. The straw that broke the camel’s back. He was a dead coach walking, and it reflected on the recruiting trail.
I was at the game and it was even more heart breaking in person than it was for those of you watching on TV. I live in Los Angeles and thought there was no way I could miss seeing the Ags at the Rose Bowl, wondering if I would ever get the opportunity to see my school compete at one of the monuments of college football again. So I spent $300 on two tickets and convinced a friend who had no dog in the fight to join me.
The tailgate was great. I found an old friend of mine from our days on campus and we spent the morning dominating UCLA fans in every beer game. My buddy and his dad ran a beer pong table for several hours. We lapped the field in games of flip cup. We assumed the same results would happen on the football field. Memories of the tailgate helped me cope with walking through the horde of UCLA fans jeering anyone in maroon on the way back to our cars.
You know the story. A&M raced out to a 44-10 lead in the third quarter before starting quarterback Nick Starkel left with an injury. A wide-eyed, true freshman Kellen Mond could barely get a first down much less score, the Aggie pass defense parted like the Red Sea for Josh Rosen, and UCLA completed one of the biggest comeback wins in college football history.
No Aggie who witnessed, on TV or in person, will ever forget it. Apparently neither will one player. The subject came up on Twitter, and Daylon Mack responded to the idea that the LSU game this past year made up for that UCLA loss. His response is every Aggie ever, if they’re being honest.
Same, Daylon. Oh, and to add insult to injury, my current girlfriend (and hopefully future wife) is a hardcore, dyed in the wool UCLA fan (she went there). So that’s fun.