PASADENA, California (Ticker) -- Bradlee Van Pelt fell one play short of a remarkable comeback.
Van Pelt led a scoring drive late in the fourth quarter but fumbled the two-point conversion attempt with 92 seconds left as 20th-ranked Colorado State lost at UCLA, 30-19.
Van Pelt was impressive in his first two games of the season but struggled Saturday before leading the Rams to a late touchdown. He ran for 27 of his 57 yards on an 80-yard drive as Colorado State tried desperately to avoid its first loss.
The Rams pulled within 21-19 on Van Pelt's six-yard keeper with 1:32 left. Van Pelt tried to run for the tying conversion but found little room and tried to pitch the ball to running back Cecil Sapp as he was hit by several defenders.
Van Pelt's toss missed Sapp and the ball was picked up by Bruins safety Ben Emmanuel, who returned the fumble for two points.
"We got three or four yards on that play all night long," Rams coach Sonny Lubick said. "We went to the well once too often. We just as easily could have won this game as not. The way we drove down the field and scored and could have tied the game. Had we made the two-point conversion, who knows what would have happened?"
The fumble capped a tough day for Van Pelt, who completed just 13-of-30 passes for 91 yards.
"They were bleeding and we just failed to put them away," Van Pelt said. "I don't care what anyone says, we should have won this game. We let them slip through the cracks."
UCLA tight end Mike Seidman recovered the ensuing onside kick and Manuel White scored on a 15-yard run as the Bruins sealed their fifth straight season-opening victory.
"I'm really happy for this football team," UCLA coach Bob Toledo said. "We're a young team, we battled back and did a good job in the fourth quarter."
Akili Harris ran for 94 yards on 13 carries and put UCLA (1-0) ahead for good with a one-yard run with nine minutes remaining.
White scored on a 16-yard run with 8:48 left to give the Bruins a 21-13 advantage.
UCLA has won 15 of its last 22 games against ranked opponents.
"I'm proud of our team for beating a top-20 team that had played two games already," Toledo said. "In the second half, we controlled the line and ran the football. In the first half, our passing game was not very good and we missed two field goals that could have made a difference."
Cory Paus completed 12-of-23 passes for 142 yards and moved into third place on UCLA's all-time list with 5,372. He struggled early and was benched in favor of true freshman Drew Olsen before returning.
"I was so excited to play, I just needed to settle down and focus," Paus said. "There's no excuse for how I played tonight. If we would have lost, my performance in the first half would have been in question. Our offensive line deserves all of the credit."
Sapp rushed for 105 yards on 23 carries as Colorado State (2-1) failed in an attempt to open a season with three wins for the first time since 1994.
"We were in control for three quarters," Lubick said. "We played about the way we did in the first two games, just the result was different. For three quarters, we were the better team."
Jeff Babcock kicked a 35-yard field goal in the first quarter and Sapp threw a seven-yard TD pass to Joel Dressen six seconds into the second as the Rams jumped out to a 10-0 lead.
Junior Taylor broke off a 49-yard touchdown run less than a minute later for the Bruins, but Babcock kicked a 32-yarder with 8:41 to go as the Rams went into halftime with a 13-7 lead.