ARLINGTON, Texas-- With three minutes left to play Saturday night, UCLA backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel made the majority of AT&T Stadium fall silent.
From 33 yards out, the quarterback tossed a long ball to UCLA receiver Jordan Payton to put the Bruins up by three and end Texas’ hope of defeating a top-15 opponent.
UCLA beat Texas 20-17, though, the Longhorns were able to rebound from an embarrassing loss last weekend against BYU and come within minutes of beating the No. 12 Bruins.
“I just like overall how this team bounced back from a week ago,” Texas head coach Charlie Strong said. “ And I told them ‘ Just keep fighting, keep battling and good things are gonna happen. These close games, we are going to be able to go win them.’ But it’s just hard right now, it’s tough in that locker room because I just know they just laid it out there and gave it all they had.”
The Longhorns had multiple opportunities against the Bruins, who were without starting quarterback Brett Hundley for most of the game. With less than five minutes left in the first quarter, Hundley was taken out with a left elbow injury and it became a battle of the quarterbacks in Arlington. Neuheisel replaced Hundley under center, leading his team to their third straight victory.
Neuheisel finished the game 23 for 30 with 178 yards and two touchdowns.
In his second start of his career, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes looked more comfortable. Swoopes completed 24 of 34 attempts for 196 yards and a career-high two touchdowns.
Swoopes' two most impressive throws of the game were completions to senior wide receiver John Harris, the first coming on fourth down near the end of the second quarter for 33 yards to get Texas to the UCLA five yard line.
“Fourth and eight, I had to keep the drive going alive,” Harris said. “So, you know, just had to step up and make a big play, so I did.”
The Longhorns scored a touchdown three plays later to take a 10-3 lead heading into halftime.
On the first play of the second half, UCLA running back Paul Perkins took the ball and ran 58 yards to the Texas 17-yard line after breaking an attempted tackle by redshirt senior linebacker Jordan Hicks. The burst was 23 yards longer than the total yards UCLA ran for in the first half and represented the Bruins' longest run of the game.
Down by three, Texas showed a glimmer of hope, responding with an 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 17-13 lead with 5:13 left to play in the game on an eight-yard touchdown reception by Harris.
UCLA fumbled on its ensuing drive when senior linebacker Steve Edmond forced the ball from Bruins running back Jordon James. The Longhorns were unable to move the ball on their penultimate drive and punted it back to the Bruins, who returned it for 45 yards to set up the game-winning score.
“Just can’t give up the big plays,” Strong said of the game-losing sequence. ”You look at it, we go up by a touchdown, we get the ball back. We just don’t take no time off the clock. And then we end up punting the ball from our territory, and guy has a really good return and get up our hitch and go.”
Texas finished with 322 yards of total offense, tallying 196 yards of passing and 126 yards on the ground.
Check out more photos from the game in the slideshow below -