Nothing comes easy for UCLA.
There was a fumble, and then another. There was an offensive pass-interference penalty. All part of the Bruins’ game-winning drive.
By the time exhausted Bruins players could rush the field -- after Arizona State’s Alex Garoutte missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt with no time left -- there was a lot to absorb from a 29-28 victory at the Rose Bowl.
Topping the list is that the Bruins are in a first-place tie with Arizona State for the Pacific 12 Conference South Division lead.
“It has been a hassle getting to this point,” defensive end Datone Jones said.
UCLA has three games left, starting with Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday. But for one night the Bruins (5-4 overall, 4-2 in conference play) could enjoy the moment.
“That was the victory I have been waiting for my whole life,” running back Derrick Coleman said.
The Bruins went 79 yards in the final minutes to get it.
The drive started with Coleman’s fumble -- which the Bruins recovered -- and ended with his one-yard touchdown plunge.
After Garoutte hooked the second of his three missed field-goal tries, the Bruins went on a five-minute odyssey. It included a bad handoff exchange and an offensive pass-interference penalty on tight end Joseph Fauria.
On third and 29, quarterback Kevin Prince completed a 33-yard pass to Nelson Rosario. Three plays later, Coleman bulled in with 49 seconds left.
The victory left the UCLA in control of its destiny in the South Division, with tiebreaker over Arizona State (6-3, 4-2).
“This is definitely something different, being in first place,” Rosario said.
But the Bruins were already tapping the brakes. With games left with Utah, Colorado and USC, no one in the UCLA locker room was looking ahead.
“We’re going to enjoy this tonight and tomorrow, then we get back to work,” said Prince, who threw for 196 yards and ran for 61.
Burying this victory will be easy, Coach Rick Neuheisel said.
“We are the team that got embarrassed two weeks ago,” he said.
Sixteen days ago, the Bruins were routed by Arizona, 48-12.
“We put that game in the trash can,” Jones said.
The Bruins nearly had another one for the scrapheap.
UCLA survived 75 yards in penalties, including two holding calls that wiped out a 41-yard run by Johnathan Franklin and a 53-yard run by Prince. Franklin also lost a fumble with UCLA driving in the fourth quarter and Josh Smith lost another on a kickoff return with seven minutes left.
“We probably don’t win this game a year ago,” Rosario said. “The difference now is we believe in each other.”
Rosario had a lot to do with the belief system. He had five receptions for 151 yards. That included a 76-yard touchdown catch at the start of the third quarter, where he left two Arizona State defensive backs looking for their laundry. It gave UCLA a 23-14 lead.
“We knew if we were going to have a chance to win this game, Nelson Rosario would have to make plays,” offensive coordinator Mike Johnson said.
UCLA also gained 220 yards rushing, 119 by Coleman.
“One play at a time was all we worried about,” Prince said.
The game was a tug-of-war throughout. In the end, the Bruins; defense pulled a little harder.
Arizona State had 465 total yards, but 188 came in the first quarter. Brock Osweiler, the Sun Devils’ 6-foot-8 quarterback, threw for 264 yards but completed 16 of 31 after the first quarter.
“We got in his face,” Jones said. “You can tell he didn’t feel comfortable when he was pressured. We could either lose this game in front of our fans or we could man-up.”