Too little, too late
With under five minutes left, quarterback Jayden Daniels ran for a one-yard touchdown to give Arizona State (0-2) its first lead of the night.
A failed two-point conversion left the score at 18-17 entering the final minutes. However, it didn’t last long as UCLA (3-2) answered with a touchdown of its own to solidify a 25-18 win. ASU had one last shot, but a last second heave toward the end zone fell short.
After a month’s hiatus, the Sun Devils finally took the field and both sides of the ball struggled. However, there were improvements in the second half, as they held the Bruins to only eight points in the final 30 minutes.
“First half, we were rusty offensive wise and defensive wise, just as the team overall. It’s hard being off for a month to come back and face a team that’s been rolling,” Daniels said. “It was hard, but we still had the chance to win the game. We just have to finish.”
Coming out of halftime, the Bruins led 17-3 and dominated much of the first half with 243 yards compared to the Sun Devils 147 and controlling time of possession.
However, ASU flipped the switch and got right to work to try and mount a comeback coming out of the locker room.
“Game planning, switching up what we were doing,” defensive lineman Tyler Johnson said on the talk at halftime. “That’s what halftime is for. We were coming in, discussing things, going over our mistakes, talking about what we can and should do. Coach Lewis came in and showed us something else we could put together and it just started working for us.”
The Sun Devil defense got a stop right off the bat, which allowed Daniels and the offense to get started. He connected with wide receiver Frank Darby for a 10-yard touchdown to cut the Bruins lead to 17-10.
The touchdown stemmed from a double pass that started with Daniels, who passed out to wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, and then reversed the ball back to running back Rachaad White, who proceeded to run for a big gain of 51 yards.
The defense came up with another stop, keeping the Bruins off the field. ASU drove right back down the field, but the Sun Devil offense gave up a fumble on the one-yard line that would’ve given them a touchdown to tie up the game.
The defense continued to fight and came up big once again, with defensive end Michael Matus getting a safety to cut the Bruins’ lead to 17-12.
They held the Bruins scoreless through the third quarter after UCLA racked up 168 yards during the second quarter, with 110 of them coming on the ground.
Offensively, ASU couldn’t connect on offense throughout much of the first half. There were many overthrown passes and breakdowns. Compared to an explosive Bruin offense, ASU only had 57 total yards in the second quarter.
Not only did the Sun Devils struggle offensively, they saw the punishment that comes with penalties. They had 12 penalties for 83 yards in Saturday’s loss, often times costing them scoring opportunities, including a two-point conversion while up 18-17.
“We had an opportunity to close things out and we didn’t and it’s a shame,” head coach Herm Edwards said. “We did some good things in the passing game. I thought that was pretty good for us. Here again, when you get in the red zone and turn the ball over and the fouls. The fouls were the big things for me, we were very sloppy and that’s not a good football team when you have that many fouls.”
There were also points left on the board, including a missed field goal from Cristian Zendejas in the first half.
Redshirt freshman kicker Jack Luckhurst came on to replace him, and got the Sun Devils’ first points of the game after completing a 49-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to put the score at 17-3.
“He’s been the guy kicking the ball and never getting an opportunity and he kicked a long one too, that was good to see,” Edwards said on Luckhurst. “He has a leg, you can’t argue with his leg strength. In a pressure moment where we needed points, he put some points on the board for us and gave us a little momentum.”
Another shining star for the defense was Johnson. He ended the night with three sacks and is the first Sun Devil to have three sacks in a game since Koron Crump in 2016.
“I think the one thing that we focused on for two weeks was that the quarterback was a runner,” Johnson said of his sacks. “I was very aware of that and mindful, so just making sure we didn’t give him the perimeter.”
Daniels ended the night 21-35 with 277 passing yards, while White had 53 rushing yards and 53 receiving yards. Running back DeaMonte Trayanum had over 100 yards as well. This is the first time ASU has started a season 0-2 since 1998.
The Sun Devils will look to their final game of the season for a win against Arizona this Friday, December 11 at 5:30 p.m. MST. The Territorial Cup will be broadcasted on ESPN. The Wildcats and ASU are a combined 0-6 going into the rivalry game.