If there were one game that could define Pac-12 After Dark, it would be this one.
The Bruins were 0-3 to start season for the second year in a row, going on a road trip up to Pullman to face a ranked Cougar team. Midway through the third quarter, they trailed by 32 points.
The ensuing high for the blue and gold was short-lived, but just as memorable as any other iconic moment for the program over the past decade.
Late on the night of Sept. 21, 2019, UCLA football was losing 49-17 to then-No. 19 Washington State with 3:49 left in the third quarter. It's hard to zero in on one turning point, and the list of plays that shifted momentum in either direction might go on forever.
To get to that major lead, the Cougars went 75 yards in less than two minutes to open the second quarter and go ahead 14-10. Washington State wound up scoring a touchdown on three consecutive drives to go into the locker room up 35-17, although quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and receiver Chase Cota connected on a Hail Mary that would have cut the deficit to 11 had it not been stopped at the 1-yard line.
The second half started off similarly poorly for the Bruins, as they punted on their first two drives, compared to the two touchdowns the Cougars scored on their two possessions early in the third.
The comeback started with a 75-yard touchdown drive capped off with a touchdown run by Thompson-Robinson, making it a 49-24 game, but this wasn't going to be like the Texas A&M game.
While UCLA scored 35 unanswered points to win that contest by one point, things weren't that simple this time around.
The Cougars fumbled on their next drive, and Cota hauled in a 37-yard touchdown on the very next play. After forcing Washington State to punt for the first time all night, UCLA was pinned on its own 6-yard line, only for Thompson-Robinson and running back Demetric Felton to connect for a 94-yard score on the first play of the drive.
Another Washington State fumble led to another UCLA touchdown – this time a semi-trick play that ended with tight end Devin Asiasi alone in the end zone – and the Bruins were down 49-46 with all but 30 seconds of the fourth quarter left to play.
The 29-point run would end there though, and absolute chaos would ensue.
The Cougars marched down the field for a touchdown, eating up over four minutes of game time in the process and making it a two-possession game again. The Bruins immediately answered with another scoring drive as Thompson-Robinson ran in his second touchdown of the game, and then they had to make a stop on the other side of the ball.
UCLA did just that, as Washington State went three-and-out and punted the ball away to Kyle Philips. Not to be one-upped by Felton bringing back a kickoff for a touchdown earlier in the night, Philips found a hole, made guys miss and brought the punt to the house.
The comeback was complete and UCLA had taken a 60-56 lead with 7:31 left on the clock.
And just like that, Washington State made a comeback of its own, needing just five plays to go 75 yards and add seven more points to their total. With 2:38 to go and the ball in the Cougars' red zone, Dorian Thompson-Robinson's fourth down pass to Felton fell incomplete and the Bruins turned it over.
One play later, linebacker Krys Barnes forced yet another Washington State fumble, which linebacker Josh Woods hopped on to give UCLA the ball back.
Thompson-Robinson hit Felton on his right, and the future Cleveland Brown ran it in from 15 yards out to put the Bruins up 67-63.
The Cougars still had a minute to drive the field and retake the lead one more time, but linebacker Keisean Lucier-South forced a fumble from quarterback Anthony Gordon and the game was over.
Two special teams touchdowns for the Bruins and four fumbles by the Cougars make this miraculous comeback all the more bizarre. Regardless, UCLA had secured its first win of 2019, and it stood out as a defining game for Thompson-Robinson and coach Chip Kelly early on in their partnership.
Thompson-Robinson racked up 564 total yards and seven total touchdowns. Felton had 263 all-purpose yards and three total touchdowns, while Philips put up 122 all-purpose yards and a touchdown and Cota notched 147 receiving yards and a score.
The stats, as outlandish as they are on paper, hardly tell the whole story of the countless ups and downs of the instant classic. Going on to finish 4-8 that season meant the comeback didn't mean much to the Bruins by year's end, but it helped UCLA start conference play 1-0 and have a shot at the division title as late as Nov. 16.