ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — UCLA never panicked when Jerry Neuheisel had to go into the game, even though the backup quarterback later told his coach he was nervous.
When it was over, and Neuheisel had thrown two touchdowns for the 12th-ranked Bruins in a 20-17 victory over Texas on Saturday night, the third-year sophomore and son of the former UCLA coach was lifted onto the shoulders of his teammates and thrust his arm in the air.
“My first thought was excitement for Jerry Neuheisel. This kid is everything that’s right about college football and about UCLA,” coach Jim Mora said. “I just thought, ‘Wow. You couldn’t write a better script than this right here. His dad was a great player here. For him to come to Texas and bringing his team from behind to get a win. It’s incredible. It’s awesome.”
The game-winning score was Neuheisel’s 33-yard TD pass to Jordan Payton with 3 minutes left, on the first play after a 58-yard punt return by Ishmael Adams with the assist of a crushing open-field block by Cameron Judge.
Neuheisel completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards after Brett Hundley injured his left elbow in the first quarter.
“It took until I got in the locker room and we did the fight song that it really sank in,” Neuheisel said. “I know tomorrow I’ll be able to tell you every single play I ran and every single throw I had and every mistake I made. Right now I’m just kind of on cloud nine and enjoying the moment.”
Texas (1-2), which started the game with a big blunder, had gone ahead when Tyrone Swoopes hit John Harris for an 8-yard TD with 5:13 left. The Longhorns then forced a fumble, but went three-and-out before punting the ball to Adams.
Swoopes threw for 196 yards and two touchdowns in his second start for concussion-plagued David Ash.
The Bruins (3-0) got the ball to start both halves after Texas botched the opening coin toss.
UCLA won the coin toss and elected to defer its choice until the second half, then Texas said it wanted to go on defense. The referee turned off his microphone and briefly said something to the Longhorns players after their decision.
“I had trouble believing it at first,” Mora said. “I told the official, I asked him four or five times, I said, ‘Are you sure?’ It helped us win the game tonight. We were able to steal a possession without taking the ball away. I’m not sure what went on out there, but we were the beneficiary and we’ll take it.”
When the Bruins unexpectedly got the ball to start the game, they got one first down before stalling at midfield and punting. On the expected opening drive of the second half, they went 75 yards on seven plays for a game-tying 3-yard TD pass from Neuheisel to Nate Iese.
Paul Perkins had 126 yards on 24 carries for the Bruins, and caught five passes for 69 yards. Ka’imi Fairbairn had field goals of 47 and 25 yards.
Hundley got hurt on UCLA’s second offensive possession, at the end of an 11-yard run to convert a third-and-9. He appeared to land awkwardly on his left arm when he reached down while being tackled at the Bruins 35.
Mora said Hundley, who wanted to get back in the game, would be re-evaluated when the team got back home.
Texas fans in burnt orange were the majority in the announced crowd of 60,479 for the neutral site game played at the $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium, only three hours from their Austin campus and the site of the national championship game in four months.
But there were still a lot of empty seats a week after the Longhorns’ 41-7 home loss to BYU that first-year Texas coach Charlie Strong described as embarrassing and humiliating.
“I like how we battled. … I just like overall how this team bounced back from a week ago,” Strong said. “I just told them to keep fighting, keep battling and good things are going to happen and these close games we’ll be able to win. It’s hard right now. It’s tough in that locker room. They laid it out there and gave everything they had.”
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