PALO ALTO — It was nice the first two times UCLA did it and impressive the third time the Bruins pulled it off, but Saturday's remarkable fourth-quarter come-from-behind victory over Stanford will stand in a class by itself.
The Bruins scored 21 points in the final 7:04 of regulation to send the game into overtime and then completed the comeback with Brandon Breazell's 23-yard touchdown catch from Drew Olson in overtime to give No. 8 UCLA an improbable 30-27 win at Stanford Stadium.
"I don't know how everyone else felt, but this was the first time this season that I had a little doubt after we fell behind like that," said senior offensive tackle Ed Blanton. "But when I looked in the eyes at the guys around me, like Drew Olson and Bobby [Cleary], you knew that we were not going to be denied."
For the Bruins, who improved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference, Saturday's fourth-quarter rally was the best in school history and fourth this month. UCLA had trailed Washington by 10 points, California by 12 and Washington State by 17.
"We keeping finding a way to keep ourselves in ballgames," Coach Karl Dorrell said about UCLA, which won at Stanford for the first time since 1997.
"There were many times when we could've -- and most teams probably would have -- folded when we were down 21 points. But this tells you about this team's heart and character. They keep believing in themselves.... It's fun to be on this part of it one more time."
In keeping their undefeated season and Rose Bowl hopes alive, the Bruins had to dig deep after Stanford took a commanding 24-3 lead with 8:26 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinal, which entered with the eighth-ranked defense in the conference, shut down the Bruins' top offensive weapons for most of the game. Running back Maurice Drew had trouble finding daylight, and Olson struggled to complete passes, especially to tight end Marcedes Lewis.
"We had them where they couldn't do nothing," said Stanford defensive end Julian Jenkins about UCLA's offense over the first three-plus quarters. "Their running was shut down. Their passing game wasn't working. They had to work just to get first downs. Then, they got us. They proved that they are a fourth-quarter team."
What turned things around for the Bruins was their hurry-up offense.
After Nick Frank scored Stanford's final touchdown, the Cardinal switched to a conservative defense and the Bruins needed only 88 seconds to cut their deficit to 24-10 on Drew's six-yard touchdown run.
In the six-play, 65-yard drive, Olson -- who struggled with consistency for three quarters -- ripped through Stanford's soft secondary with five consecutive completions, including a 15-yarder to Joe Cowan to set up Drew's touchdown.
"We just got up on the ball and went," said Olson, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 293 yards. "All game long, we were stumbling around. Our energy wasn't high and we couldn't get our rhythm offensively.... But once we got into our two-minute, that's when our offense was great."
But it was UCLA's fourth-quarter defense that made sure the offense had enough opportunities to complete the comeback.
Stanford, which had outgained UCLA, 249-147, over the first three quarters, gained only 11 yards in its final 16 plays from scrimmage in the fourth quarter and overtime.
"Throughout a game, you start to recognize the plays better and by the end, their offense had gotten more and more basic," UCLA linebacker Wesley Walker said. "All year, our defense has done a good job of stepping up when we need to, especially in the fourth quarter. Today was just another case of us wanting it with the game on the line."
UCLA's defense forced Stanford to punt twice down the stretch and Olson did the rest. He needed only 34 seconds to complete three passes in a row in a 72-yard drive that was capped by Cowan's 31-yard touchdown catch that cut Stanford's lead to 24-17 with 4:43 remaining in regulation.
Then after another short possession by Stanford, Olson took advantage of consecutive pass interference penalties by the Cardinal to move UCLA inside the Stanford 10-yard line. Then on fourth down and two with 57 seconds left, Olson completed a clutch five-yard pass to Cowan.
"We knew that sooner or later, Drew [Olson] would come around," Dorrell said. "But it was one of those things that it wasn't just him. We were out of sync in a lot of respects offensively."
After Drew tied the score, 24-24, with a one-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds left, the Bruins felt like they had the game won before overtime began. Stanford got the ball first and the Bruins forced the Cardinal to kick a 42-yard field goal by Michael Sgroi.
Knowing that a touchdown would win the game, UCLA did not waste any time attacking the Cardinal defense. After a short run by Drew, Olson completed the game-winning pass to Breazell in the left corner of the end zone to give UCLA its second overtime victory of the year.
"All I had to do was get off the line of scrimmage and I had watched [Stanford's cornerbacks] struggle when they tried to press," Breazell said. "I just gave the guy my best move and once I got outside, the ball was right there. You can't get it any better than that.
"This was a game where we were killing ourselves, but we knew that we would be OK once we figured things out and stopped making mistakes. We know that we're never out of a game."