Game Management Cost A&M
One of the biggest issues spread teams have is clock management when they're tasked with closing out a game. Often spread teams can't bleed clock because they practice and play at a tempo that doesn't allow them to slow down.
Sunday nights monumental Aggie meltdown can trace part of its landslide fourth quarter to the A&M failure to adjust to game situations. Let's remember, coaches, are paid to win games, style points and marriage to systems can get them beat. For A&M the object of the trip to Los Angeles was to win the game first and foremost, but by the fourth quarter, A&M was in closer mode. The Aggies had roughly thirteen minutes to hold on to a twenty point lead, but they didn't play like a team with a lead.
With a freshman quarterback in his first road game, thrust into game action due to injury, Noel Mazzone didn't protect Kellen Mond. Instead, he put the game on his shoulders. Mond finished the game 3 of 17 passing. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, he was 1 for 8 and struggling passing the ball. A&M also had two 100 yard rushers in the backfield.
With just over eight minutes left in the fourth, A&M held on to a thirteen point lead, and UCLA was coming on. Eight minutes is an eternity and add into that UCLA's two timeouts; the game was far from over.
On A&M's next series the Aggies ran eight offensive plays, five passes, and three runs. They completed one of the five throws. The clock ran after five of A&M eight plays in the drive, which ended in a missed field goal. With a running game clock, the Aggies snapped the ball with ten or more seconds three times, including once with 23 seconds. All told, the Aggies gave UCLA almost a full minute of game time because of their hurry. The issue was so apparent that the Fox broadcast ran the play clock on its lower 3rd graphic beginning on the 3rd play of the series. Typically the play clock pops up once it runs under ten seconds, but Fox began running the graphic from 40, I suspect to illustrate the point. The Aggies punted the ball with 4:44 left, using just over 3 minutes of game time.
The Aggies next drive was worse, the Aggie lead was down to just six points, and Josh Rosen was on fire. A&M's response, three plays, two of which were passes. A&M completed neither pass and ran exactly 24 seconds of game clock.
A&M gift wrapped a two-minute drill back to the Bruins. UCLA only needed a little over a minute of game time to score the go ahead touchdown.
From the A&M's last drive of the 3rd quarter on, the Aggies left just under three minutes of game clock to the Bruins because of their hurry to snap the ball. If A&M lets the play clock bleed to under five or even ten seconds, they drain the clock. In A&M's last ten player, encompassing their final two drive, Aggie plays calling led to a stopped clock on four of ten plays. Even if A&M doesn't gain a yard if the Aggies can drain another 30 plus seconds in each series, UCLA would've been forced to alter its approach. Instead, A&M gave UCLA easily five minutes of clock time because the Aggies couldn't adjust their clock management style.