Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener turned in a performance for the ages on Saturday night, playing through an injury to lead the Bulldogs to a 40-37 upset at No. 13 UCLA. Haener threw both of his touchdown passes in the fourth quarter while playing in clear pain and collapsed on the field in celebration when the last-second Hail Mary pass from Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s fell to the turf to cement the outcome.
Haener, a Washington transfer, finished 39-of-53 passing for 455 yards. None of those completions were more important than the 13-yard strike to receiver Jalen Cropper with 14 seconds left that ultimately lifted Fresno State to victory.
The Bulldogs needed every bit of Haener’s prolific outing to complete the improbable win. Two weeks after turnovers doomed Fresno State in an upset bid at Oregon that came up short, it looked like fumbles might again be the Bulldogs’ demise at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA’s defense forced fumbles on consecutive fourth-quarter possessions, converting both into touchdowns to take a 30-26 lead with 7:27 remaining. But Haener responded by leading a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. After throwing a go-ahead touchdown to Erik Brooks with 2:55 remaining, Haener fell to the turf writhing in pain from the numerous hits he had been taking.
UCLA then retaliated with a scoring drive of its own to reclaim a 37-33 lead with 54 seconds left when Thompson-Robinson found Kyle Phillips uncovered on a shallow route.
But that’s when Haener did his best work. Despite needing 75 yards in less than a minute while clearly in pain, Haener completed 5-of-6 passes, capping the game-winning drive with a 13-yard strike to Cropper.
Fresno State faces UNLV on a short week next Friday while UCLA will face Stanford in Week 4.