No. 15 Arizona held off the Bruins 29-21 on Saturday as the Wildcats dominated the statistics but didn't clinch the victory until the final minute.
"We had a chance to put them away, but they kept us out of the end zone," coach Mike Stoops said. "We moved the ball and controlled play, but they suckered us on two big plays."
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Arizona rolled up a season-high 583 yards and 32 first downs and held the Bruins to 299 yards and 15 first downs.
Those two big plays were a 68-yard touchdown pass from Richard Brehaut to Randall Carroll on the fourth play of the second half and a 49-yard TD pass from Brehaut to Josh Smith with 14:24 remaining. Both moved the Bruins to within five points of the Wildcats.
Arizona backup Matt Scott had another big game in the absence of Nick Foles, completing 24 of 36 passes for a career-high 319 yards with one touchdown and one interception and rushing for another 71 yards on 12 carries.
Scott, a junior from nearby Corona, threw for 233 yards and ran for another 65 in a 44-14 victory over Washington last weekend filling in for Foles, who sprained his right knee two weeks ago. Foles might be healthy enough to return next Saturday when the Wildcats play at No. 13 Stanford.
"I can't worry about next week's game. That's the coach's decision," Scott said. "I need to learn from my mistakes."
Said Stoops: "Nick was close today, and we'll evaluate the situation. If Nick is ready, he'll start against Stanford."
Keola Antolin rushed for 111 yards on 23 carries for the Wildcats (7-1, 4-1 Pac-10), off to their best start since winning seven of their first eight games en route to a 12-1 finish in 1998.
Stoops shocked the Bruins by calling a fake punt on fourth-and-3 from the Arizona 27 with 6:23 remaining and the Wildcats leading 26-21. Jake Fischer ran for 29 yards to give the Wildcats a big first down.
"It was there all day," Stoops said. "We were on our heels in the fourth quarter, and they took the bait."
The play enabled the Wildcats to eat up some time before having to punt. The Bruins turned the ball over on downs, putting the Wildcats in position for Alex Zendejas' third field goal of the game, a 30-yarder.
UCLA's final chance ended when Brooks Reed sacked Brehaut and caused a fumble, which Sione Tuihalamaka recovered with 48 seconds left.
"We came out electric in the first half, but slow in the second half," Scott said. "Their big plays took our momentum away, and we didn't get it back."
But the Wildcats did enough for their fourth straight road victory dating to last season, keeping them alive for their first berth in the Rose Bowl.
Brehaut passed for a career-best 228 yards and two touchdowns for the Bruins (3-5, 1-4), who lost their third straight game but performed much better than in their last two, when they were outscored 95-20 at California and Oregon.
UCLA entered ranked 117th among the 120 FBS schools in yards passing with an average of just 104.6 per game.
"Going into the game, we talked about effort and execution, and the effort was terrific," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We didn't have enough to get over the hump. I'm very proud of the effort, but it wasn't quite enough. There has to be great execution as well.
"I truly believe that we are going to get this done. If I didn't believe it, I shouldn't be here."
After Brehaut's TD pass to Carroll, the Wildcats responded with an 80-yard drive capped by Greg Nwoko's 1-yard run.
Neither team threatened again until Brehaut's big pass to Smith on a flea flicker capped an 86-yard drive and made it 26-21. There wasn't a defender within 10 yards of Smith when he made the reception and trotted into the end zone as the Rose Bowl crowd of 53,408 roared its approval.
UCLA reached the Arizona 34 with 9 1/2 minutes to play, but Smith lost 9 yards on a flanker reverse and the Bruins were forced to punt. They wouldn't threaten to score again.
The Bruins played without starting quarterback Kevin Prince, who underwent season-ending knee surgery Oct. 23, and standout linebacker Patrick Larimore, sidelined with an injured left shoulder. UCLA was also without wide receiver Ricky Marvray and offensive tackle Sean Sheller, a pair of starters serving one-game suspensions for violating team rules.
"We want rhythm, but it's tough when guys are in and out of the lineup," Brehaut said. "We're eight games in and we showed fight. We came out strong in the second half but missed opportunities in the first half."