UCLA Hangs On Against ASU

Does UCLA Have A Quarterback Race?
Spread the love

Don’t look now UCLA fans, but the Bruins have a two-game winning streak after their 25-18 win over Arizona State in Tempe Saturday night. At 3-2, they have a winning record for the first time since October 21st, 2017, when they were 4-3 after a home win against Oregon.

UCLA Hangs On Against ASU

It was not easy, nor was it pretty Saturday night. Arizona State was playing its first game in a month because of COVID issues. UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson missed two weeks due to COVID contact tracing. Missed time on both sides did not equal an increase in quality of play. The Bruins managed only 120 yards of offense in the entire second half and were outscored 15-8 in the last two quarters. But it was the big early lead that got them the room to hang on for the win.

The Bruins began the game with starting  running back Demetric Felton, on the sidelines. Head coach Chip Kelly described him as, “Banged up during the week.” Brittain Brown started in the backfield and finished the game with 94 yards on seven carries, almost all in the first half.

Slow Start

The game started off sluggishly enough. Neither team scored in the first quarter. In fact, the only notable stat in the first quarter was ASU having seven first downs to UCLA’s three. Other than that, it was pretty much what you would expect out of a scoreless quarter, uneventful. Near the end of the first, Thompson-Robinson threw downfield into double coverage, but Delon Hurt made a circus catch for a 38-yard reception down to the Sun Devils 35-yard line. It was his first reception of the season.

As the drive picked up in the second quarter, Thompson-Robinson found Hurt on a shallow crossing pattern for nine yards and the touchdown for the 7-0 lead.

The Bruins added a 44-yard field goal from Nicholas Barr-Mira. The drive officially netted 66 yards, even though Brown contributed 69 yards rushing and 18 yards receiving going downfield. Two quarterback sacks pushed the Bruins out into field goal range.

Bruins Jump Out To Big Halftime Lead

UCLA’s next scoring drive was thanks to Thompson-Robinson’s 55 yards of rushing, including the last 11 yards as he avoided a sack and ran up the middle for the touchdown. UCLA was up by a commanding 17-0 lead with only a couple of minutes left in the half.

The Bruins special teams then gave up a 42-yard kickoff return to D.J. Taylor. A few plays later the Sun Devils were in position for a 49-yard field goal from Jack Luckhurst to narrow the UCLA lead to 17-3 at halftime.

UCLA was controlling the stat lines as well as the scoreboard. The Bruins outgained ASU 243 total yards to 147. They also had balance between the passing game (128 yards) and the running game (115 yards). UCLA had held Arizona State’s quarterback Jayden Daniels to zero touchdowns on 106 passing yards.

Burn The Film

Things got very shaky for UCLA in the third quarter. The Bruins were forced to punt after managing only four plays on its opening drive of the second half.

Arizona State needed only five plays to turn that into points. Frank Darby shed the coverage of defensive back Obi Eboh and Daniels hit him for a nine-yard touchdown pass. The Sun Devils had needed only 1:47 to get the UCLA lead down to  17-10.

The next several minutes were the kind of football that neither coach is going to keep on a highlight reel.

Daniels got ASU down to the UCLA one-yard line on a 6-play, 57-yard drive But then a bad center exchange caused a fumble that was recovered by UCLA’s Caleb Johnson at the Sun Devils three yard-line. The Bruins, however, went backwards. Two straight Keegan Jones rushes netted a total of -2 yards. Then Thompson-Robinson dropped back into the end zone to throw. Under heavy pressure he threw the ball away, but he was not outside the tackle box. He was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. ASU got the safety, and the UCLA lead was now down to 17-12.

Late in the third quarter, Arizona State was driving to take the lead. The Sun Devils were at the UCLA 32. Daniels had a wide-open receiver on the left side of the end zone. Instead he threw into double coverage in the middle of the end zone and it was intercepted by Jay Shaw and returned 21 yards. But Thompson-Robinson was sacked twice, and the ensuing UCLA drive managed only 26 yards on nine plays. Thompson-Robinson was sacked a season high five times in the game.

ASU Comeback And UCLA Response

ASU took advantage. They burned more than six minutes off the clock to go 82 yards in 11 plays. Daniels strolled into the end zone from three yards out for the touchdown. Because of penalties, the Sun Devils had three shots at the 2-point conversion but came up empty. Still, ASU was now up 18-17 with only four minutes left in the game.

The Bruins found it in themselves to regroup for one decent drive. Felton, who had been a non-factor most of the game, after a career high rushing game last week, was suddenly the go-to guy. He ran for 29 yards on the drive, including the last two yards. Arizona State let him score so as to try to save some clock for its last drive. As odd as it was, UCLA had the 23-18 lead. Thompson-Robinson connected with Chase Cota for the two-point conversion.

ASU had one last shot at tying the game but could not get past midfield. Quentin Lake batted down a last chance desperation throw in the end zone and the Bruins could breathe a little more easily.

After the game, Thompson-Robinson said the team was off its pace in the second half. “I think a lot of it has to do with just trying to press. We were just trying to finish them right away.” He said the key late in the game was reminding themselves to stick with their training and fundamentals. As for the big picture, there was this from Thompson-Robinson, “Coach Kelly said it all along. We are headed in the right direction and it’s all about the process.”

It’s Still A Win

Any review of the numbers will bring mixed reviews. Despite the win, the Bruins were outgained 442 yards to 363. Thompson-Robinson was 18-24 for 192 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 49 yards and a touchdown. Conversely, the safety was his to own, for not taking the three steps to his left needed to be outside the tackle box. Some of the sacks were on him also for trying to extend a play beyond their viability. The Bruins also lost the clock with ASU having a time of possession advantage of five minutes. But despite some shaky play and iffy decision making, UCLA had zero turnovers. Take care of the ball and you likely win.

The defense, to its credit “forced” two ASU turnovers. But the offense converted those turnovers into zero points. The Bruins were also only five of 13 on third down conversions.

There is a lot of work to do before Saturday’s game at home against USC in the regular season finale. The team is playing far from clean football. But that is what Monday is for. “Any time you win a football game, it feels great,” Kelly said after the game. And for at least a week, the Bruins have a winning record for the first time in 37 months.

Embed from Getty Images