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ARLINGTON, Texas – What a perfect Hollywood script for Jerry Neuheisel, the backup quarterback and former coach's son who helped UCLA avoid an upset.
"They don't write them much better than that. I promise you," Neuheisel said. "I was actually born at UCLA. I went to a Rose Bowl in 2001 with the Washington Huskies. I always knew that the Rose Bowl was where I wanted to play and I wanted to go to UCLA. ... To take my team to victory and just be a part of this UCLA football team meant the world to me."
After dual-threat quarterback Brett Hundley hurt his left elbow in the first quarter against Texas, Neuheisel threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Both came after halftime, including the game-winning 33-yarder to Jordan Payton with 3 minutes left in the 12th-ranked Bruins' 20-17 victory Saturday night.
"We had complete confidence in Jerry," Payton said. "At halftime, he came in, he said, 'I've been dreaming of this my whole life. So why not just go out and do it?' We went out there and we did it."
The third-year sophomore was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates after the win in a glitzy setting far from Westwood — in the $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys' home stadium that Jerry Jones built. Another Jerry starred for one night in front of an announced crowd of 60,479, most in Texas burnt orange colors.
UCLA (3-0) remained 12th in the new Associated Press poll Sunday, ending a two-week slide. The Bruins had their highest preseason ranking since 1998 at No. 7, but dropped after close wins against Virginia and Memphis when they were big favorites in both games.
Hundley got hurt at the end of an 11-yard run to convert a third-and-9. His non-throwing arm twisted awkwardly when he reached down while being tackled by the Longhorns (1-2).
Coach Jim Mora said Hundley had X-rays at the stadium and was begging to get back in the game. Instead, he was held out and an MRI was planned Sunday, 11 days before the Bruins' next game Sept. 25 at Arizona State.
Mora was excited for Neuheisel's opportunity, though the backup said afterward that he was nervous.
"And I said, you know what? I wasn't. Because I've watched you every day. And I've watched you prepare. And I know how smart you are," Mora said. "And I know your lineage. And I know how your dad taught you. And I think it all paid off for him. And I'm just so happy for him and the rest of our players."
Neuheisel's father is Rick, the former UCLA quarterback and Bruins coach before Mora. He is now an analyst for the Pac-12 Network.
Rick Neuheisel was in a San Francisco studio watching his son's game on another network. They spoke briefly afterward.
"He just kind of told me, 'Hey, I did it, you did it. It's kind of a Neuheisel thing.' I'm just blessed to be where I am," said the younger Neuheisel, who never considered not being at UCLA even after his father was fired.
"As much as everyone thinks I came to UCLA just for my dad, that was obviously part of it, me and my dad have a great relationship. But it's the guys on the team," he said. "There's something about wearing the blue and gold that means the absolute world to me. I wanted to be in the Rose Bowl and play and I had an opportunity to do that last year. And now this is my next dream come true."