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UCLA Bruins Escape Tempe with a 25-18 Win Over Arizona State
The Bruins found a way to get it done and move to 3-2 on the season.
Folks, that was a wild one.
First, head on over to read Teri’s recap of the first half, because she did a good job and now I don’t have to do extra work. That said, UCLA started the second half up 17-3 on the Arizona State Sun Devils, receiving the opening kickoff, and looking like they had a chance to put this game in a vice grip.
That said, this is UCLA Bruins football - you knew there was no way it would be that easy.
UCLA was generally awful on offense in the second half. Outside of the final drive (which we’ll get to in a moment, the Bruins put up 47 total yards and scored more points for Arizona State than they did for themselves thanks to an ill-advised Dorian Thompson-Robinson throw that resulted in a safety after intentional grounding was called. The Bruins could not get anything going on the ground, as the Sun Devils keyed in on the UCLA rushing attack, and failed to get much going through the air as well. There’s enough blame to share here; Thompson-Robinson is going to (justifiably) receive a ton of flack for poor decision-making in the second half, while this is the second week in a row Chip Kelly’s offense has looked poor after halftime as the defense adjusted. The offensive line even struggled to block ASU with any sort of consistency, too often leaving Thompson-Robinson to scramble and run for his life.
Arizona State, meanwhile, began to figure things out offensively. The numbers are not kind for the UCLA defense, as they allowed 295 yards in the half, getting gashed both on the ground (21 carries for 124 yards and 5.9 YPC) and through the air (171 yards on 10-16 passing). The Sun Devils picked up first downs consistently and rarely got to third down, though it did not matter much as they went 2-3 on third down in the second half.
The only thing that was really able to stop the Sun Devils were, well, themselves, and they repeatedly stopped themselves in the second half. UCLA was able to grab two turnovers due to mistakes by Arizona State QB Jayden Daniels, as he fumbled a snap inside the UCLA 5-yard line, and followed it up by air-mailing a deep ball into double coverage while the Sun Devils were rolling. Arizona State also had multiple touchdowns called back due to various penalties, including a number of ineligible man downfield calls. In many respects, Arizona State looked like a team that was playing their second game of the season and made the kind of mistakes you would expect a team to make in this situation. To say UCLA caught a ton of breaks in this game is an understatement.
Despite all that, UCLA found itself in a position to win the game with 4:26 remaining, and win the game they did. The final UCLA drive was masterful, as Thompson-Robinson showed a poise that had eluded him all half, while UCLA receivers came up huge repeatedly. The Bruins also welcomed the return of Demetric Felton to the field; Felton was noticeably absent for most of the game, but returned for the final drive and made his presence known, accounting for 39 yards and drawing a key face-mask penalty late. Felton ended up scoring the go-ahead touchdown, though not of his own accord, as the ASU defenders pulled him into the end zone while he tried to stay down at the 1-yard line. The Bruins went for two to make it a seven-point game, and Thompson-Robinson’s pass to Chase Cota was initially ruled short, but instead was called good on review.
The last Arizona State drive saw a revitalized UCLA defense that came up big when it had to, sacking Daniels multiple times and knocking down a last-ditch heave to the end zone to secure the victory. Shout out to Caleb Johnson who potentially had a gut-wrenching sack miss, but made sure he wouldn’t miss a second time, completing a big sack to force a long 4th and 20.
With the win, UCLA improves to 3-2 on the season, the first time they have had a winning record under Chip Kelly. More importantly, they now have a two-game win streak and plenty of momentum as they enter the most important week on the UCLA football calendar. Yes, it now officially Beat SC Week, and the UCLA team that showed up in the first half is more than good enough to win that game.
The Bruins were a bit lucky to escape Tempe with the victory, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and hasn’t UCLA football deserved a bit of luck after the past few years?