PASADENA, California — The Rose Bowl erupted in celebration as Josh Rosen dove into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:09 remaining, but the young quarterback knew UCLA had not put away Washington State.
The Cougars had three timeouts to take their Air Raid offense the length of the field to tie or win the game, and would make every second count.
Gabe Marks made a diving 21-yard touchdown reception with 3 seconds to play, sending Washington State to a jaw-dropping 31-27 victory over No. 18 UCLA on Saturday night.
"An offense like that, you just never know," Rosen said. "I knew if we were in their shoes we would have scored, too."
Washington State (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) had an improbable addendum to what seemed to be a storybook ending to the Bruins' home finale. Rosen capped a desperate 80-yard drive by scrambling 37 yards to give the Bruins (7-3, 4-3) the late lead.
Falk answered with his own spectacular 75-yard drive ending with a remarkable, physical catch by Marks, who became the Cougars' career receptions leader earlier in the game with his 196th catch.
"We struggled on offense to finish and then we finally have a great play at the end, great play by Josh. And then we came up short at the end," said UCLA coach Jim Mora, who has dropped the home finale in each of his four seasons with the Bruins. "Everyone is going to focus on the last drive and last play, but there is so much that led up to that point."
UCLA was seemingly intent on out-passing prolific Washington State, with Rosen going 33 for 57 for 340 yards. That left only 20 carries for running back Paul Perkins, who gashed the suspect Cougars run defense for 121 yards.
The Bruins came away with just one touchdown in five trips to the red zone. Dropped passes, a rash of penalties, three atrocious punts and two lost fumbles further damaged the UCLA cause.
Still, the precocious freshman Rosen appeared to clinch the win after Jaleel Wadood's end-zone interception with 3:13 left gave a last chance to the Bruins, who racked up 554 yards.
"I don't think I've ever scored that many points on offense with only two touchdowns," Rosen said. "We've got to convert. Our defense did the best they could against a really high-powered offense, and we just didn't hold up our end of the bargain on offense."
Rosen sprinted through the defense for his score and subsequently hit Thomas Duarte for the 2-point conversion.
But the Cougars went 75 yards in 66 seconds, and Marks hung on to the ball despite contact with the UCLA defender.
UCLA lost after leading at halftime for the first time in 32 games under Mora. The Bruins also lost despite holding Washington State's offense to 288 yards in the first three quarters.
Falk returned from a mid-game injury after passing a concussion protocol to throw for 331 yards. He threw two TD passes to Marks, and the Cougars punctuated their resurgent season with their first win over a ranked team in 10 tries since 2013.
Coach Mike Leach's club has won five of its last six games, giving the Cougars seven victories for the first time since 2003.
Nate Starks had an early TD run for the Bruins, who still control their fate in the Pac-12 South despite a mediocre home finale. UCLA would win the division with season-ending road victories over Utah and Southern California.
"It's something we have to get over quickly," Mora said. "As crazy as it is, we're still right in the hunt for what our goal was all along."
Falk returned to the game in the second half after taking a violent sack and leaving the field in the second quarter. Falk, the Pac-12's leader in yards passing and total offense, appeared to hit his head on the ground while getting hit by Jacob Tuioti-Mariner.
Falk downplayed the hit, saying he "got my bell rung a little bit." Leach said he didn't hesitate after Falk was cleared by team doctors to return.
Freshman Peyton Bender threw his first career touchdown pass to Dom Williams during Falk's absence.
The Bruins allowed Washington State to stay close by hurting themselves: Ishmael Adams fumbled a punt return at the UCLA 14 in the second quarter and then committed defensive holding while his teammates sacked Bender on third down, allowing Bender to hit Williams for a short TD on the extra snap. UCLA committed 13 penalties overall for 75 yards.
UCLA kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn became the leading scorer in Pac-12 history with his 392nd career point when the Bruins' opening drive ended with a 22-yard field goal. UCLA center Jake Brendel set a school record on the same drive with his 49th career start, surpassing linebacker Spencer Havner's 10-year-old mark.
Marks' TD catch midway through the third quarter put Washington State up 21-16. Marks broke Michael Bumpus' school receptions record early in the second half.
AP college football website: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org