Los Angeles — UCLA practiced a fake spike last week, never imagining that it would cap off the biggest comeback in school history.
Josh Rosen faked the spike and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Lasley with 43 seconds remaining and UCLA overcame a 34-point deficit to stun Texas A&M 45-44 on Sunday night.
"How many seconds were left when we did it? 40? That's when we thought of it. Not before then," UCLA offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said.
Rosen was 35 of 59 for 491 yards and four fourth-quarter touchdowns, and Jalen Starks and Soso Jamabo had scoring runs for the Bruins in the opener for both teams.
UCLA overcame a deficit of more than 20 points for the first time since overcoming a 22-0 hole in the first quarter of the 2005 Sun Bowl against Northwestern.
Rosen threw for 292 yards and the four scoring passes in the final 15 minutes to overcome a 27-point margin.
"My career at UCLA, we've had a lot of times where the chips didn't fall in our favor, and I think it's time that finally it did," Rosen said.
UCLA scored touchdowns on five straight possessions after trailing 44-10 with 4:08 to play in the third quarter. Rosen threw touchdown passes of 9 and 42 yards to Darren Andrews before finding Theo Howard for a 16-yard score on a broken play with 3:08 remaining.
UCLA got the ball back with 2:39 to go and drove 66 yards in 10 plays, including an 11-yard throw and catch to tight end Caleb Wilson. Rosen capped the remarkable comeback with a fade to the far corner of the end zone after faking the spike to freeze the defense. JJ Molson kicked the winning extra point.
The intent of the fake was to catch Texas A&M off guard, but the Aggies were already discombobulated by a series of breakdowns that had allowed UCLA back into the game.
The most memorable happened when cornerback Deshawn Capers-Smith was in position to intercept Rosen's pass, only for it to sail through his hands to Andrews for the 42-yard strike that cut it to 44-31 with 8:12 to play.
Braden Mann also had a 43-yard field goal with 4:41 remaining tipped by defensive back Adarius Pickett.
"We were an inch away from losing that game probably 10 times," said Rosen, who threw for the third-most yards in a game in school history. "I mean, for God's sakes, I mean, that field goal would have put us out, and we just had an incredible surge and effort just to put probably a centimeter of a finger on the ball. I mean, the things that had to go right to win this game were incredible."
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond was stopped short of the first-down marker on a scramble with 20 seconds left to close out the biggest FBS comeback since 2006.
"It was a lot of fun, huh? Glad you stuck around?" UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "We knew that this was not going to be an easy game, but we didn't know we were going to be down 28 points at halftime. I was just so impressed by the way that they managed their emotions at halftime and then coming back in the second half."
Wilson had 15 receptions for 203 yards, and Andrews had 12 catches for 147 yards.
Trayveon Williams rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and Keith Ford added 114 yards rushing and three touchdowns for Texas A&M. The Aggies lost for only the second time in six openers under coach Kevin Sumlin.
Rosen spent much of the game under constant pressure from Texas A&M for the second straight season until mounting the stunning comeback. After being sacked five times last season in a 31-24 overtime loss at College Station, Rosen was dropped three times and lost two fumbles in his return after missing the final six games last year with a shoulder injury.
Francois out for season
Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois will miss the rest of the season after tearing the patellar tendon in his left knee in the fourth quarter Saturday night in a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta.
The Tallahassee Democrat first reported the injury.
Coach Jimbo Fisher is expected to have a further update, including when Francois is expected to have surgery, during his weekly press conference Monday. Fisher said after Saturday’s game that if Francois was out, James Blackman would likely be the starter.
If Blackman starts for third-ranked Florida State on Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe, it would be only the second time in school history a quarterback has started as a true freshman. The last time it happened was in 1985 when Chip Ferguson started against Miami.
Blind snapper gets chance
Jake Olson first imagined this moment long before he lost his vision to cancer eight years ago.
Southern California scored a touchdown. Coach Clay Helton turned to the sideline and yelled his name: “Are you ready? Let’s get this done!”
The blind long snapper’s snap was straight and true and the Trojans kicked the final point in a 49-31 victory over Western Michigan.
“It turned out to be a beautiful moment,” Olson said.
Howard sets record
Howard pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history. Howard’s 43-40 win over UNLV is believed to be the biggest outright win by a team according to the point spread.
The Bison, a Football Championship Subdivision school, were a 45-point underdog.