UCLA survives in Texas, but Brett Hundley gets hurt
This truly was Jerry’s World.
This may have been the stadium Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built, another Jerry had a spotlight moment Saturday.
UCLA quarterback Jerry Neuheisel casually strolled in for the postgame news conference and said, “Usually, holders don’t get to talk.”
Reveling in the moment? This was Nirvana for a sophomore whose last name stirs a lot of UCLA memories.
Neuheisel may have salvaged the Bruins’ season, pulling out a 20-17 victory over Texas with a late touchdown pass.
He replaced Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley, who left the game with an elbow injury in the first quarter.
The moan could be heard from Westwood . . . but it was replaced by Bruins fans chanting “U-C-L-A” long after their team had left the field at AT&T Stadium.
Neuheisel stirred memories of his father, former UCLA quarterback and coach Rick Neuheisel. He tossed a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton with three minutes left lift the No.21 Bruins to victory.
“It took me until I got into the locker room and did the fight song before it kind of sank in,” Jerry Neuheisel said. “I felt like I was in a haze.”
The victory left the Bruins with a 3-0 record and a lot of concerns about Hundley. But Neuheisel allowed them to sleep well for one night.
UCLA was facing a struggling Texas team, but things changed radically when Hundley wobbled to the sideline with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
So the Bruins’ offense was turned over to a name that carries weight in Westwood, as well as some regret. Rick Neuheisel led UCLA to victory in the 1984 Rose Bowl. He also was UCLA’s coach for four years before being fired in 2011, just before his son joined the team.
Jerry Neuheisel stayed on, and UCLA fans can be glad he did.
He completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards. The coup de grace moment was the pass to Payton, who slipped free along the sideline.
Coach Jim Mora never had a doubt, even before the Bruins came to Texas.
“He’s a coach’s kid, he grew up in this game,” said Mora, also the son of a coach. “We’re the same people, and that’s what we talked about the first week I took the job. It was going to be a hard transition for a guy like Jerry. His dad was a legend here.”
The son started his own legacy.
Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, making his second start, completed 24 of 34 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. His seven-yard scoring pass to John Harris gave the Longhorns a 17-13 lead with 5:13 left.
But Neuheisel bailed the Bruins out. His touchdown pass followed a 45-yard punt return by Ishmael Adams. After Payton cruised into the end zone, everyone on the UCLA offense rushed to celebrate, except Neuheisel, who had to hold for the extra point.
Later, he got a celebration moment. The Bruins, en masse, lifted him on their shoulders at game’s end.
“At halftime, he came in and said, ‘I’ve been dreaming of this my whole life, why not go out there and do it?’” Payton said.
Neuheisel did, then had a phone call to make . . . to his father. “He told me, ‘I did it, you did, it’s kind of a Neuheisel thing,’” Jerry said.
Rick Neuheisel, a Pac-12 Networks analyst, took a break to gush on the air.
“Today it was Jerry Neuheisel’s chance to act like he’d been there before, and I’m thrilled for him, I’m thrilled for him, I can’t be happier for him,” Rick Neuheisel said. “Pinch me, pinch me . . . we need a shower in this studio.”
Neuheisel had plenty of help. The Bruins were content to let the running game and defense get them out of Texas undefeated.
UCLA had 217 yards rushing. Paul Perkins had 126 yards. He bolted 58 yards on the first play of the second half, setting up UCLA’s first touchdown, Neuheisel’s three-yard pass to Nate Iese.
Jordon James finished with 69 yards in eight carries. His 20-yard run in the first quarter helped set up a 47-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn for a 3-0 lead.
Later, the defense got Neuheisel the chance to win it, holding on three downs after James had fumbled at the Texas 25-yard line with four minutes left.
“Tomorrow, I’ll be able to tell you every single play I ran, every single throw I had, every mistake I had,” Neuheisel said. “Right now I’m just on Cloud Nine.”
Follow Chris Foster on Twitter @cfosterlatimes
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