COLLEGE STATION, Texas — UCLA had the start they wanted – a recovered fumble on Texas A&M’s first drive, solid pass rushing from senior defensive lineman Takk McKinley and a silent Aggie crowd, stunned after falling behind 3-0 early on opening weekend.
But the Bruins couldn’t keep the momentum late into the second quarter, letting the home team creep back into the game and rejuvenating the crowd.
Junior linebacker Kenny Young’s recovered fumble – coupled with a penalty on A&M – brought UCLA all the way down to the 21-yard line where sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen couldn’t get the offense any further. Freshman kicker JJ Molson gave the Bruins the early edge with a field goal.
McKinely and senior defensive back Tahaan Goodman limited the Aggies to just nine yards on their next drive to put Rosen and the UCLA offense back onto the field with a chance to extend the lead.
But while he was getting sacked, the sophomore chucked up the football right into the hands of Texas A&M defensive back and former UCLA player Priest Willis. The Aggies couldn’t cash in on their field goal, hitting the right upright and preserving Bruins’ slim lead. They continued to pressure Rosen throughout the game and forced him into rushed and overthrown passes.
The Bruins returned to the red zone two more times in the half, powered by sophomore running back Bolu Olorunfunmi’s 32-yard run and sophomore Soso Jamabo’s shifty routes, before settling for a Molson field goal each time. Midway through the second quarter, Rosen could only convert two of his eight third-down attempts.
With redshirt junior Eddie Vanderdoes and McKinley on the bench, Trevor Knight, a quarterback transfer from Oklahoma, clawed the offense back into the game. Their 11-play, 70-yard drive, capped off by a seven-yard run from Keith Ford, gave the home crowd their first lead of the game at 7-6.
The teams traded field goals to end the half 10-9 in favor of Texas A&M.
UCLA edged Texas A&M in first downs, passing yards and time of possession, but struggled to generate momentum on the rush finishing with 19 carries for 79 yards halfway through the game. The Aggies, behind Ford, Trayveon Williams and Christian Kirk, carried 17 times for 103 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown score.