Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and his Aggies aren’t in a good place.
On Tuesday, the team and coaches watched game film of their stunning 45-44 loss to UCLA on Sunday night at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins overcame A&M’s 34-point lead to complete the second biggest comeback in the history of NCAA Division I football.
Sumlin saw his job security drop a notch when an A&M regent blasted the coach on social media in the aftermath of the defeat. By Tuesday, national sports radio shows were pondering whether Sumlin would make it to October before getting the hook.
Among Sumlin’s most pressing concerns are replacing his team’s starting quarterback, Nick Starkel, and Aggies safety Donovan Wilson, a team captain. Both suffered significant leg injuries that required surgery.
“This afternoon will be the last time we talk about UCLA,” Sumlin said Tuesday. “There were a lot of things that happened that we can learn from. There were very positive things in the first half. There are a lot of things we can learn from. The key is to not make those same mistakes again and get better.”
In any case, the Aggies and Sumlin have many mistakes to fix on both offense and defense after only one week.
There’s some solace for the Aggies in knowing that the competition drops the next couple of weeks. A&M will be host to Nicholls State on Saturday before Louisiana-Lafayette comes to Kyle Field on Sept. 16. Sumlin, in his six seasons at A&M, has yet to lose to a non-Power 5 or an FCS school. The Aggies are 18-0 against those teams.
However, A&M has lost six straight to teams among the Power 5 elite.
Sumlin was asked specifically about the comments made by A&M regent Tony Buzbee, who wrote on both Facebook and Twitter that he would vote to fire Sumlin. Buzbee, a Houston lawyer who has been on the board for seven years, said Sumlin was arrogant and had been out-coached despite having better players.
“People are frustrated. I’m frustrated. I’m not happy,” Sumlin said.
”Our focus is on us. That never changes. I’m not in the business of really paying attention to anything outside this program or comments good or bad. My focus is on what we can do to be better. I don’t really have time to get involved in things that are said about the program or about me.”
Sumlin wasn’t forthcoming about his plans for replacing replace Starkel. All he did was say when he would let folks know who the new QB will, whether it’s true freshman Kellen Mond or senior Jake Hubenak.
“We’ll announce a starter on Saturday,” Sumlin said. “We have to figure out what we’re doing with that position. I expect they’ll both play over the coming weeks.”
Mond was in for all the snaps after Starkel broke his ankle in the second quarter. Hubenak, who has started three games in his career, stayed on the sideline, prompting speculation that he, too, was hurt. Sumlin said Hubenak could’ve played.
The athletic Mond gave A&M an advantage in the running game, but when the Bruins crowded the line of scrimmage with as many as eight defenders, Mond struggled to complete a pass.
Mond was only 3-of-17 passing for 27 yards. Starkel, after completing his first three throws, also had problems before he got hurt. He was 6 of 13 overall for 62 yards. The 89 total passing yards represented the worst performance by any Power 5 team on opening weekend. Only five teams were worse nationally, and it was the second-worst passing outing in the Sumlin era at A&M.
Hubenak started A&M’s bowl game in 2015 when the top two Aggies quarterbacks abruptly transferred after the regular season. He also filled in for Trevor Knight last year after Knight hurt his shoulder. Hubenak has thrown for 1,273 yards in his two previous seasons at A&M.
There is no timeline for Starkel’s return. His injury was severe enough that the fracture needed surgery to repair it. He hasn’t been allowed to speak to the media, but Starkel posted on Twitter: “I’m doing just fine … Thank you Aggieland for all the prayers! God has a plan through all of this! Gig ’Em!”