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UCLA finally feels the rush of victory with win over Oregon State, 38-24

UCLA defensive back Randall Goforth returns an interception for a touchdown during a game against Oregon State on Nov. 12.

UCLA defensive back Randall Goforth returns an interception for a touchdown during a game against Oregon State on Nov. 12.

(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
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Randall Goforth held the ball aloft with one hand as he crossed the 15-yard line, legs churning with only open field ahead.

Finally, after more than a month, there was something to celebrate for the UCLA safety and his teammates.

Goforth’s 40-yard interception return for a touchdown with a little more than two minutes left Saturday night at the Rose Bowl secured the Bruins’ 38-24 victory over Oregon State, ending a four-game losing streak.

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Afterward, amid a jubilant locker room, UCLA left tackle Conor McDermott hoisted longtime roommate and former walk-on quarterback Mike Fafaul into the air, Bruins players chanting “Mike! Mike! Mike!” as a reward for the fifth-year senior’s perseverance.

Fafaul, who had labored in anonymity behind starters Brett Hundley and Josh Rosen before Rosen sustained a season-ending shoulder injury last month, was given the game ball after earning his first victory as a collegiate starter. It is only the second time UCLA has awarded that honor in Coach Jim Mora’s five years with the team. Fafaul said he would give the ball to his mother, Barbara.

“It was really special, I can’t even put it into words right now,” Fafaul, who completed 25 of 47 passes for 281 yards with one interception, said of his teammates’ gesture. “It was unbelievable.”

UCLA won largely thanks to more gutsy play from Fafaul and four words seldom written this season: another Bruins rushing touchdown. Freshman tailback Jalen Starks, getting his first carries since mid-September, ran for two of his team’s three rushing touchdowns, including a four-yard score midway through the third quarter to give UCLA a 31-21 lead.

The Bruins (4-6 overall, 2-5 Pac-12 Conference) used their top five tailbacks for the first time this season and finished with 163 yards rushing, their most since they collected 219 against Nevada Las Vegas in the season’s second game.

“We just made a decision this week that we were going to get all of them work, that we were going to rotate them through the game and kind of look for a hot hand,” Mora said. “And, you know, they were all playing pretty well.”

But there were was a blemish for nearly every cheery story line. UCLA’s receivers dropped seven passes, a punt went to the opposite side of the field from the coverage, a holding penalty wiped out a lengthy touchdown run and a pass-interference penalty sustained an Oregon State drive with the Beavers needing only a touchdown to tie the score.

Goforth ended those hopes when he stepped in front of backup quarterback Marcus McMaryion’s pass and returned it for the game’s final points, even if his holding the ball out with one hand didn’t win him any style points.

“He had a heck of a football game, he really did,” UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. “I just wish he put the ball away until he crosses the goal line. I’m a big fan of that.”

UCLA couldn’t be picky about its first victory since beating Arizona on Oct. 1.

The Bruins were facing a team even more depleted than themselves. Oregon State (2-8, 1-6) was missing both its starting quarterback and first-string tailback on the way to its fifth consecutive defeat.

UCLA didn’t have Rosen? Well, the Beavers one-upped them in the woe-is-me department with both quarterback Darell Garretson and tailback Ryan Nall sidelined by injuries.

There was, predictably, plenty of uneven play and little separation between the teams.

Oregon State linebacker Manase Hungalu recovered two fumbles and intercepted a Fafaul pass on third down from the Beavers’ one-yard line early in the fourth quarter, returning it 36 yards and prompting boos from UCLA fans.

UCLA’s defense was equally solid, holding Oregon State to 307 total yards and forcing three turnovers, including fumble recoveries by linebackers Jayon Brown and Kenny Young.

“The score is not indicative of how well our defense played,” Mora said.

UCLA shrugged off an early Oregon State touchdown by reeling off 21 unanswered points in the first half. Tailback Bolu Olorunfunmi ran for a four-yard touchdown and Starks spun into the end zone from three yards out to give the Bruins a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.

UCLA’s punt coverage team padded the cushion when DeChaun Holiday burst through the middle and blocked Nick Porebski’s punt. The ball was recovered in the air by Lasley, who returned it 23 yards for a touchdown.

Ultimately, the Bruins did just enough to experience a feeling they haven’t enjoyed in a while.

“It’s good to get a win,” Mora said. “They’ve been hard to come by this year.”

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch


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