September 07, 2016

Play 60 will be repeated hundreds of times this week in College Station, but the Aggies can hang their hat on a few positives after another signature win to start the season.

Texas A&M won its season-opener against 16th-ranked UCLA and coach Kevin Sumlin labeled the victory worthy of celebration.

No. 20 Texas A&M has now defeated a ranked foe to start a campaign for the third straight year. The problems for Texas A&M of late have come after early October.

Even so, there are plenty of things to give the Aggies hope heading into Saturday's matchup with Prairie View A&M.

Texas A&M ran the ball and defended the run against UCLA. The Aggies built a 24-9 lead in the third quarter. And they kept their composure when the Bruins made a comeback to force overtime.

With a notch in the win column, UCLA's fourth-quarter surge simply serves as ammunition for Sumlin this week.

"We're not sugar coating that with our guys," Sumlin said Tuesday. "We've got to be able to close out games, finish games. It also says that, yeah, we rotated guys in the front, but we've got to get more out of our back-up guys."

Following the season-opening test and preceding the Aggies SEC opener at Auburn on September 17 will be another date at Ryan Field this week.

The Panthers (1-0) hail from just 46 miles down the road from College Station in Prairie View, Texas. But this will be the first meeting in football between the two schools.

Texas A&M coaches will be demanding close attention to detail and maintaining intensity after the fourth-quarter fall off against UCLA.

"It starts with us in games like this, things that we've got to get better," Sumlin said. "One of those things, for whatever reason, is the focus."

Quarterback Trevor Knight scored the 1-yard touchdown on fourth down to give the Aggies a win in the opener. But he did not put up impressive passing numbers in his first start for the Aggies. He completed 22 of 42 passes for 239 yards, a TD and a pick. Knight said he needs to be "sharper in every area" and step forward in execution.

Coaches typically won't allow that a loss is a good thing, but perhaps a narrow win over a ranked opponent can be just that.

Film review underscored the positive play of the offensive line, which did not allow a sack against UCLA and looked more than ready to replace Mike Matthews and Germain Ifedi. Redshirt freshman Eric McCoy, who started the game at center for the Aggies, was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.

"Last year we redshirted him but he traveled to every game," Sumlin said. "He was Mike Matthews' backup. He was told, and he knew, that if Mike Matthews went down, he was the next-best guy who can give us the best chance to win."

The strong line play is good news in combination with the emergence of depth at running back.

Trayveon Williams wasted no time in making an impact on the Aggies' running game. The true freshman carried 15 times for 94 yards with a long run of 42 yards against UCLA. He had the most carries of any Texas A&M back, a trend that is likely to continue.

One trend the Aggies don't want to continue is the fourth-quarter wobble that nearly set up UCLA for a comeback that would have changed the tune for Sumlin's bunch this week.

"We played well for three quarters, and I think that's obvious," Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis said. "We didn't play the kind of football that we needed to play in the fourth quarter ... got to get that fixed. I think we showed a lot of people that we are capable of playing well, but we've got to be able to do it for 60 minutes."

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