PASADENA — UCLA didn’t start the biggest comeback in school history at the 2:06 mark of the third quarter when Soso Jamabo ran for a 6-yard touchdown against Texas A&M on Sunday at the Rose Bowl. It started on Jan. 6. The first day of winter workouts.
“The work comes from the offseason, that’s when games are won,” senior linebacker Kenny Young said.
Desperate to cleanse the bitter taste of a 4-8 season, the Bruins (1-0) rallied for the sweetest of victories, a 45-44 thriller with a 34-point comeback that was the second biggest in NCAA history.
At halftime, down 28 points after doing next to nothing on both sides of the ball, the players showed no panic, fifth-year senior Darren Andrews remembers. They were ready to fight for the win and for each other.
“It’s a family,” the Bishop Amat graduate said. “Everybody loves each other, everybody makes each other better. … That’s why I think we came back.”
The camaraderie that has been building since January, when combined with a healthy dose of luck, produced a game so wild that several players woke up Monday morning thinking it was all an elaborate hoax.
Still in shock from yesterday 😂💙💛Love my team man 🤘🏾
— Keisean Lucier-South (@KLSouth11) September 4, 2017
— Caleb Wilson (@calebwilson81) September 4, 2017
Wilson, who started his career as a walk-on at USC, set the UCLA record for receptions in a single game. He had eight catches in the fourth quarter for 108 yards, including a 26-yard catch-and-run on fourth-and-3 when he juked the defender at the top of his route. The Bruins capped the drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Josh Rosen to Theo Howard on a ball the quarterback admitted he was “fully trying to throw away.”
Plays kept going in UCLA’s favor. Andrews was sure that Rosen’s long pass with 8:12 left in the fourth was going to be an interception. It was short. Texas A&M defensive back DeShawn Capers-Smith was in perfect position for the pick. Andrews was mentally preparing to tackle him. Instead, the ball squirted through the Aggie’s hands and landed in Andrews’ for a 42-yard touchdown. Adarius Pickett blocked a field goal with the tip of his left thumb with 4:41 left in the fourth after he remembered special teams coordinator Scott White saying the Aggies (0-1) were soft in a certain gap of their protection. A rarely used fake-spike trick…