PASADENA, Calif. — The last time Texas played in Pasadena, D.J. Grant was nursing a torn ACL, PCL and hamstring in his right leg.
Grant more than made up for lost time with his performance this weekend, catching six passes for 77 yards and three touchdowns as Texas beat UCLA, 49-20.
“There was no doubt in my mind I’d be playing again,” Grant said. “Football is what I love and want to do so there was nothing that was going to stop me from coming back.”
Grant spent each of the last two seasons in rehab but made his presence felt on the field, catching two touchdowns from Case McCoy and one from Jaxon Shipley. McCoy and freshman Malcolm Brown each made the most of their first career starts, with McCoy connecting on 12 of his 15 passes for 168 yards while Brown ran for 110 yards and a touchdown that saw him lose a shoe on his way to the end zone.
“I thought this was perfect for us,” said head coach Mack Brown. “To win a tight one at home against Brigham Young when we were behind and then come out here and do really well in this game that we lost last year – that’s two statements of improvement.”
Like Texas’ 34-12 loss to UCLA last season, turnovers were the difference early on. The Longhorns picked off Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince on three consecutive first-quarter possessions, with each of the interceptions made by three different players – Carrington Byndom, Adrian Phillips, and Kenny Vaccaro. Texas converted each of the takeaways into touchdowns as it jumped out to a 21-0 lead. After being outscored by a combined 19-16 in the first half coming into the game, the Longhorns took a 28-10 halftime lead and never looked back.
“If the ball’s close they’re going to catch it,” Diaz said of his secondary. “They owned the ball and that’s what you want as a defense. Part of our design is to make big plays for our team. We believe turnovers win football games and our team got to see that first-hand tonight.”
UCLA embarrassed Texas on its home turf a year ago but after losing to the Bruins by 22 last season, the Longhorns returned the favor and did them a touchdown better, winning by 29 on UCLA’s home field this year. Texas players and coaches were adamant throughout the week leading up to this game that revenge was not on their minds. But giving UCLA a taste of the medicine it gave the Longhorns last year makes the victory that much sweeter.