Photo courtesy of Robby Beyers/Stanford University

Challenging in-city rival USC was a tall task for UCLA throughout the mid-2000s, but for the early parts of the 2005 season, the Bruins looked to have a chance.

As its rival did so often, UCLA would complete a few notable comebacks during the 2005 season. The biggest came on this day 15 years ago as the Bruins rallied from 21 points down in the final quarter to beat Stanford in overtime, 30-27.

Setting the Stage

For the first time since 1998, UCLA was off to a 7-0 start as it made its way to Stanford Stadium on Oct. 29, 2005. The Bruins were ranked No. 8 in the country and 4-0 in Pac-10 play. UCLA had won three conference games by one score.

Stanford was 4-2 under first-year head coach Walt Harris. After an embarrassing loss to California-Davis and a blowout at Oregon, the Cardinal had won three straight games. They appeared well on their way toward a signature win.

The Comeback

With less than eight and a half minutes to play, Stanford seemed to have the game in the bag. Aaron Zagory’s 7-yard touchdown run had just given the Cardinal a 24-3 lead and UCLA looked dead in the water.

The ensuing drive took UCLA just 75 seconds to find the end zone. Maurice Jones-Drew scored from six yards out to cut the lead to 14, but it appeared to be too little, too late.

After forcing a 3-and-out on the ensuing Stanford drive, the Bruins needed just three Drew Olson throws to reach the end zone. Olson complete a 22-yard pass to Jones-Drew and a 19-yard pass to Justin London before finding Joe Cowan for a 31-yard touchdown. It had taken the Bruins just 34 seconds to find the end zone. With 4:43 to go, the lead was down to seven.

The Cardinal managed one first down on the ensuing drive, but nothing more. With two and a half minutes to go, the Bruins got the ball back trailing 24-17.

After starting at their own 34-yard-line, the Bruins easily converted their first third down. Olson found tight end Marcedes Lewis for 20 yards. Back-to-back pass interference calls put UCLA in the red zone. Following an incomplete pass and a pair of short throws, the game came down to one play.

With 57 seconds left, UCLA faced 4th-and-1 from the Stanford 6-yard-line. Olson calmly found Cowan for a first down to the 1. One play later, Jones-Drew was in the end zone foe the tying touchdown with 46 seconds left.

Stanford reached the 41-yard-line on the next possession, but after Aaron Perez sacked Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards, the Cardinal were content with going to overtime.

Overtime

The first possession in the extra period would belong to Stanford, but it lasted just three plays. On 3rd-and-3 from the 18-yard-line, Perez came away with another big sack. Michael Sgroi made good on the 42-yard field goal attempt to give the Cardinal a 27-24 lead.

It took UCLA just two plays to end the contest. After a 2-yard run by Jones-Drew, Olson found Brandon Breazell for the game-winning 23-yard touchdown as the Bruins remained undefeated.

In Hindsight

UCLA’s run as an undefeated team would last just one more week. The following Saturday, the Bruins were defeated by Arizona, 52-14.

As for Stanford, it would win just once more in 2005. The Cardinal finished 5-6 — their best record since 2001.

The Bruins would remain in the Pac-10 hunt until the regular season finale when they were blown out by rival and No. 1 USC, 66-19. UCLA rebounded with a 50-38 win over Northwestern in the Sun Bowl to finish in the top 20.

The win over Stanford marked the fourth time in conference play that UCLA had rallied from more than 10 points down for victory. It happened on this day 15 years ago.

References

ESPN

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.