Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer 50d

Josh Rosen lets his play do the talking with UCLA's miracle rally

PASADENA, Calif. -- Jedd Fisch wanted to take a chance. His team was in the process of erasing a monumental 44-10 third-quarter deficit, so Fisch, in his first game as UCLA's offensive coordinator, decided to roll the dice on third-and-5 from the Texas A&M 10-yard line.

Forget that there were 48 seconds left in Sunday's game at the Rose Bowl and history was on the line. Fisch figured that in that moment, the best answer was to get cute. He was about to ask his superstar quarterback to fake a spike and heave a prayer on a fade to the end zone to pull off the unthinkable.

It's a chance that typically ends in ecstasy or calls for a job search in the morning.

Seconds later, that chance turned into triumph. Josh Rosen's split-second hesitation at the line froze A&M's already exhausted defense and gave him enough time to look up, set and float a perfectly lofted pass to Jordan Lasley's back shoulder, giving out-of-position defensive back Myles Jones no shot to make a play.

As Lasley tip-toed into the corner of the end zone and later collapsed into the padded wall behind him from sheer exhaustion and elation, Rosen ripped his helmet off and jumped into the arms of teammates galloping toward him. Later, he did the same on the sideline with head coach Jim Mora, who for most of that game looked like a dead man walking, thanks to the gargantuan hole his Bruins had found themselves in.

But they managed to climb out, completing the biggest comeback in school history for a 45-44 victory.

"Breaking in a new offense, took a little time to get rolling. It's a unique way to start off with a new OC and a new relationship, but I'm happy how it went," said Rosen, who finished the game with 491 passing yards (third most in school history) and four touchdowns on 35-for-59 passing.

"The chips just fell in our favor tonight."

Boy, did they.

The Bruins were finished, trailing 31-10 at halftime. UCLA was embarrassed at 44-10 late in the third quarter. But as the dirt was being tossed on UCLA's grave and fans marched for the exits, Rosen showed the world why he is projected to be one of the first players taken in next year's NFL draft.

For the better part of three quarters, Rosen looked lost and defeated. He was popped, punished and flung around like a rag doll by an A&M defense that was trying to find new legs without former stars Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall. It was more of the same from one of the nation's worst offensive lines a year ago, as UCLA's big men allowed the face of its program to get clobbered.

Thanks to a nonexistent running game, Rosen had to champion this astonishing comeback with that golden arm of his, and he didn't disappoint. After throwing for 114 yards on 9-for-23 passing in the first half, Rosen found more of a groove in the third quarter, as A&M's defense began to tire and its offense dug its feet into the grass, unable to move once freshman Kellen Mond took over for injured starter Nick Starkel.

Then the fourth quarter came, and Rosen and his receivers fell into perfect harmony. In those final 15 minutes, Rosen threw for 292 yards and tossed a touchdown on all four drives, reasserting himself as one of the nation's best players, rather than a player known more for what he says off the field.

"That's a good quarter," said Fisch, who basked in his first victory as UCLA's new OC.

It was a great quarter -- historic, really -- and Rosen was the main catalyst, but his play fueled his team and his coaches. When Fisch went to Rosen, Rosen simply told his coach to give him the ball, and he'd score.

As the offense clicked, the defense fell back into place, switching to its base look at halftime -- after not practicing it for more than a week. The more UCLA pushed, the more A&M -- which collapsed in typical A&M fashion over the past few grueling years under Kevin Sumlin -- sank.

"You could see that Texas A&M had kind of thought that the game was over, and our guys never quit, and you never sensed that on the sideline," UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.

The Bruins won with a little luck. There was Braden Mann's fourth-quarter field goal that would have sealed the game for the Aggies but was somehow blocked. There was Rosen cutting A&M's lead to 44-31 with a bullet of a 42-yard pass over the middle of the field that slipped right through defender Deshawn Capers-Smith's hands to Darren Andrews. Rosen later admitted that he shouldn't have thrown that pass and should have hit a wide-open Lasley on a better read.

The touchdown to cut the game to one score in the fourth was a fluke, too. As he was being chased, Rosen tried to throw the ball out of bounds, but his arm was hit, and the ball awkwardly sailed to a falling Theo Howard in the end zone for a 16-yard score.

Oh, and that game winner? Yeah, Lasley bobbled that one as he stepped out of bounds, but the play wasn't reversed.

"We are an inch away from losing that game probably 10 times," Rosen said. "For God's sakes, that field goal would have put us out, and we just had an incredible surge and effort to put probably a centimeter of a finger on the ball. The things that had to go right to win this game were incredible."

Rosen was incredible. On a weekend when top quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, who are jockeying with Rosen for the top pick in next year's draft, looked flat, Rosen went from slouch to mythical beast in one quarter. He was the centerpiece of one of college football's greatest comebacks, and though UCLA can't let the euphoria of this epic win mask the plethora of flaws it has, Rosen's performance should give this program hope that even when the outcome seems impossible, he's just a few throws away.

"There's no fear in him. He's not afraid," Mora said.

"He's becoming a man, and he's starting to act like a man."

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