PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Josh Rosen threw three interceptions in UCLA's overtime loss at Texas A&M last season, and his year never really got a whole lot better. After a six-game sophomore season that ended early due to injury, the Bruins' star quarterback is back with another new offensive coordinator and a sense of optimism. He'll lead UCLA against the Aggies at the Rose Bowl on Sunday with the chance to begin the Bruins' comeback from a 4-8 campaign with a bit of redemption.
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Josh Rosen threw three interceptions in UCLA's overtime loss at Texas A&M last season, and his year never really got a whole lot better.
After a six-game sophomore season that ended early due to injury, the Bruins' star quarterback is back with another new offensive coordinator and a sense of optimism. He'll lead UCLA against the Aggies at the Rose Bowl on Sunday with the chance to begin the Bruins' comeback from a 4-8 campaign with a bit of redemption.
"It's been a long time since I've competed against anyone that's not in a UCLA jersey, so I'm just excited to get on the field and play football again," Rosen said.
Two big programs coming off disappointing seasons will meet in their openers for the second straight year when Jim Mora's Bruins host Kevin Sumlin's Aggies.
UCLA had its first losing record in Mora's tenure last fall, while Texas A&M plateaued with eight victories and a minor bowl berth for the third straight season. Both schools' fan bases expect more, although Sumlin is facing much more heat than Mora.
But football isn't everything: Many Aggies have spent the week worried about Hurricane Harvey and its effect on the Gulf Coast. The school put extensive resources into helping its players and their families before the season-opening trip to California.
"The reality is, you can get away from the situation, but you can't replace memories and things that are destroyed in something like this," Sumlin said. "That's a part of this that you deal with later, but right now we're dealing with the human element."
Here are more things to watch in Texas A&M's first appearance at the Rose Bowl:
BIG MAN: Myles Garrett is gone to the Cleveland Browns, but Jarrett Johnson is taking over a prominent role on the Aggies' defensive line. Johnson spent three seasons behind Garrett on the depth chart, although he played extensively while Garrett was injured. "Jarrett has experience," Sumlin said. "He's savvy at the position and has gained some weight to hold his point a little more instead of just being a pass-rusher. He's an every-down guy now."
RUN IT: UCLA had 125 yards rushing against the Aggies last year, but a spectacularly inept running game was the Bruins' biggest problem while going 4-8. New offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and offensive line coach Hank Fraley are quietly confident they can move the ball better than last season's offense, which managed just 84.2 yards per game — next-to-last in the entire FBS. Tailbacks Soso Jamabo, Nate Starks and Bolu Olorunfunmi all return behind a revamped offensive line that should be better suited to its jobs.
BIG SECRET: Sumlin has refused to name a starting quarterback, but redshirt freshman Nick Starkel is expected to get the first crack at replacing Trevor Knight. Senior Jake Hubenak and freshman Kellen Mond also are available, and all could play. Their top target will be star receiver Christian Kirk, who was recruited heavily by UCLA.
FOR STARTERS: UCLA has won 14 of its 15 nonconference regular-season games under Mora, with last year's trip to A&M representing the only loss.
OLD FRIEND: A&M's offensive coordinator is still Noel Mazzone, who spent the previous four seasons at UCLA under Mora before moving to College Station last season and promptly beating the Bruins. Former UCLA quarterback Jerry Neuheisel is a graduate assistant for Mazzone.