PASADENA, CA-The entire UCLA Bruins football season was summed up Saturday night in one capsule at the Rose Bowl against Arizona State. For stretches, the Bruins looked incapable of beating their Pac-12 Conference South Division opponent. That was pretty much illustrated when the Sun Devils went roughshod of over the Bruins on their first couple of possessions to take a 14-0 lead before some folks could even make into their seats.
Then there are times this season that UCLA’s offense, led by quarterback Josh Rosen, has looked nothing short of spectacular. Rosen, who is ranked 13th in the nation in passing yards and 10th in total offense, helped to hammer this point home against the Sun Devils with his 381 passing yards and one touchdown performance. As a result, UCLA still have a perfect record at home in 2017.
The Bruins have won all five of their home games this season. It’s on the road where the Bruins (5-5) have gotten into a whole lot of trouble. Coming off two straight road defeats to Washington and to Utah, the Bruins were glad to be back in the comfortable confines that the Rose Bowl has to offer. They certainly played like it, securing a 44-37 win against Arizona State (5-5) in a wild, back-and-forth contest.
With a road date with their city rival-USC Trojans, and a home game finale against Cal-the Bruins’ season-cappers could be just as zany and unpredictable as their season. If UCLA’s teeter-totter play all season is any indication, there’s a good chance the final games could match the sporadic successes and shortcomings the Bruins have had all year.
That was reflected against Arizona State. For a while there, as the Sun Devils jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, UCLA played like it was still recovering from its sobering 48-17 defeat at Utah last week. Things got quiet in the Rose Bowl after Arizona State running back Demario Richard, who rushed for 125 yards in the game, made his way into the endzone to give the Sun Devils their double-digit lead.
Arizona State’s ground game was the thorn in UCLA’s side on those two drives as it was rest of the game. The Sun Devils accumulated nearly 300 yards (294 yards) rushing the football against the Bruins. That might be an issue when the Bruins try to slow down USC running back Ronald Jones II in the Trojans’ home and regular season finale at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
But that’s then. This is now. The Bruins, despite the rushing onslaught by Richard and his running crew, answered back with 192 yards on the ground. Combined those numbers with Rosen’s totals, the Bruins’ offense got jumpstarted on a least likely play.
When UCLA’s offense stalled on their first couple of possessions, the panic meter could almost be felt throughout the stadium as clearly the momentum was rolling early in Arizona State’s favor. The Bruins then picked up the biggest gift of the long and chilly Southern California night as they stared down the possibility of being down three scores to the Sun Devils.
The Bruins desperately needed a break. A stoppage and turnover on downs would have been wonderful. Getting a turnover would change the momentum the Bruins had lost. Like clockwork, UCLA saw that dream come true.
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins’ tipped pass flipped its way right into the hands of an opportunistic Nate Meadors, who dashed 27 yards for the score to cut the Sun Devils’ lead in half. That wasn’t your ballgame, but it sure gave UCLA the lift it needed to win its fifth game at home this season. The first quarter went into the books with Arizona State leading 14-7.
The Bruins would claim the scoring advantage over the Sun Devils over the last three quarters. The difference in the outcome of the game came down to who would outscore who in the final two periods of action. UCLA won that battle, outscoring Arizona State, 24-16, in the third and fourth quarters to send the Sun Devils back to the desert with their fifth defeat of the season.
The win for UCLA was good in the fact that it keeps the Bruins in the running for a possible bowl invitation. Beating USC and Cal would increase those chances significantly.