Comeback lead doesn’t hold
The Arizona State Sun Devils couldn’t hold on to a late-game lead, dropping their December home debut 18-25 against the UCLA Bruins.
In the first quarter, the Sun Devils marched to the brink of the red zone on seven straight pass attempts by quarterback Jayden Daniels. However, the protection couldn’t hold on and the Bruins sacked Daniels on back-to-back plays as he set his sights on the end zone. Christian Zendejas then pushed his 45-yard field goal attempt right.
The Bruins capitalized in the second quarter on a nine-play, 73-yard drive by quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. After running back Delon Felton converted a critical 4th-and-1, the Bruins rolled into the red zone, eventually finding wide receiver Delon Hurt for the nine-yard score.
After another drive where ASU stalled on third down, the Bruins continued where they left off. On the second play of the drive, Brittain Brown banged his way through traffic at the line and found daylight on the right sideline. His 64-yard rush was eventually negated by a botched snap on third down at ASU’s 11-yard line, and the Bruins settled for a 44-yard field goal by Nicholas Barr-Mira to go up 10-0.
On UCLA’s next possession, Thompson-Robinson utilized both his arm and legs on a methodical 91-yard drive. He used the latter to glide to the end zone after jetting out of a collapsing pocket. The 11-yard score extended the lead to 17 points following Barr-Mira’s successful extra point attempt.
With 30 seconds left in the half, ASU was helped out by a 63-yard kickoff return by D.J. Taylor and a tripping penalty. After passes to first-year receivers LV Bunkley-Shelton and Johnny Wilson fell flat, Edwards sent in redshirt freshman kicker Jake Luckhurst for the 49-yard field goal try. His first collegiate kick went through the uprights and the Sun Devils headed to the locker room down 17-3 at halftime.
The ASU defense forced a three-and-out to begin the third quarter. Five plays later, Daniels found Frank Darby in the end zone from 10 yards out for the first time this year. Once again, Luckhurst was out to kick instead of Zendejas.
The Bruins stalled again. ASU marched back to the cusp of the goal line on a strike by Daniels to Geordon Porter, but UCLA dove on the fumble on the following play.
Once again, the defense stepped up in a big way. After two negative rushing attempts from the UCLA rushing attack, defensive end Michael Matus chased down Thompson-Robinson out the back of the end zone for a safety.
After receiving the ball, the Sun Devils turned to their freshmen. Trayanum picked up 18 yards on three attempts and Daniels hit Bunkley-Shelton for an 11-yard gain on second down. However, Daniels wasn’t as sharp targeting his new weapon on the next play, sailing his pass into the hands of cornerback Jay Shaw.
The defense held. It was clear that the offense needed to pull their weight. DeaMonte Trayanum took on that responsibility, piecing together a string of explosive runs and single-handedly earning three first downs. Then, Rachaad White ripped off a 20-yard gain to put the Sun Devils within the 5-yard line. After handing it off to Trayanum on first down, Daniels sprinted the ball in himself for the score, which gave ASU its first lead of the night.
Down 17-18 with 4:26 left to play, UCLA managed to find traction for the first time all half. The Bruins milked the clock, mixed passes and runs equally, and found paydirt in the form of a 2-yard rush from Felton.
For the second straight game, Daniels was tasked to lead a last-minute comeback. The result was the same. Daniels drove the Sun Devils to UCLA’s 43-yard line, but was sacked on third down for an 8-yard loss by Caleb Johnson. He got the ball to the end zone on the fourth down prayer, but it was swatted from Bunkley-Shelton’s grasp and the Bruins trotted out in victory formation.
Despite a promising second-half surge, ASU fell to 0-2 a month after suffering similar heartbreak in their season opener at the hands of USC.
Daniels completed 21-35 passes for 225 yards. Trayanum finished the game with 108 rushing yards on 15 attempts and is averaging 7.1 yards per attempt through his first two games.