LOS ANGELES, CA – UCLA needed a lights out performance against No. 24 Arizona State to keep their Pac-12 South title hopes alive. Lucky enough for the Bruins, the pass-run combination of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Joshua Kelley torched the Arizona State defense for 393 total yards of offense. Earning their first home win of the season, UCLA beat Arizona State 42-32.
Thompson-Robinson went down with an apparent left foot injury in the fourth quarter of UCLA’s victory. Two athletic trainers helped the sophomore quarterback limp off the field.
“I know he has a left leg injury and that’s it,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said of Thompson-Robinson. “I haven’t talked to the trainer.”
Redshirt sophomore Austin Burton, who started at quarterback in UCLA’s 48-31 loss to Oregon State, replaced Thompson-Robinson and didn’t attempt a pass.
Arizona State outscored UCLA 15-0 in the fourth quarter, but the Bruins’ 16-minute advantage in time of possession proved to make a big difference.
Kelley scorched the Sun Devils on the ground, rushing for 164 yards on 34 carries.
“When everybody in the stadium knows you’re going to run the football and you’re still able to run the ball, I think that’s really a credit to the whole group, but really the mindset that Josh has,” Kelly said. “When Josh plays well, I think we have a shot.”
Kelley compiled four rushing touchdowns and averaged 4.8 yards per carry.
“Individual success, that’s fine and all,” Kelley said, “The things that you’ll forever remember is the winning plays, the winning moments. Sharing the moment in the locker room with those guys, that’s the stuff I play for.”
After a strong two-score performance in UCLA’s road victory over Stanford last week, Thompson-Robinson kept the momentum going. The sophomore signal-caller completed 16 of his 23 throws for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
Cajon High School (San Bernardino) product and Arizona State true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels struggled at the Rose Bowl in the first half, but had a strong fourth quarter and completed 68% of his throws for 214 yards passing and two scores. Daniels also ran the ball 11 times, gaining 55 yards and collecting a rushing touchdown.
Daniels hit Nolan Matthews for a 4-yard touchdown with just over six minutes remaining. Arizona State elected to go for a 2-point conversion. Freshman quarterback Ethan Long approached the goalline on a reverse and got rocked by UCLA special-teamer Sitiveni Kaufusi. Kaufusi was called for targeting and ejected.
“[The referees] were great in terms of communicating,” Kelly said. They did a good job of getting together themselves and trying to make sure that they made the right call. From what I got from them, I think it was a unique situation.”
Daniels escaped the pocket and crossed the goalline to give Arizona State the two points, but UCLA’s lead stayed in double figures.
The Arizona State offense showed signs of life on its first possession of the third quarter, Daniels leading an 8-play, 67-yard drive. Cristian Zendejas nailed a 30-yard field goal, but the Sun Devils trailed by 25 points.
By halftime, UCLA emassed 229 yards of total offense and 18 first downs. They did so in 45 plays and were 2-of-2 on fourth down. Kelley gained 3 first-half touchdowns on 17 carries and Thompson-Robinson completed 73 percent of his passes up to that point.
As Daniels struggled in the first quarter, so did the rest of Arizona State’s offense. An Eno Benjamin fumble on Arizona State’s first possession turned into UCLA points two minutes later. Kelley bursted through a left-sideline hole for 24 yards and scored one play later.
UCLA quickly found offensive struggles of their own. George Lea sacked Thompson-Robinson for a loss of 12 and he fumbled, allowing Chase Lucas to scoop the loose ball and give Daniels possession at UCLA’s 4-yard line. It took Arizona State three plays to go four yards, but Daniels scored with his legs to tie things at 7.
UCLA ran twice the number of plays Arizona State orchestrated and held the ball for nearly six more minutes. The Bruins’ edge in time of possession and total yardage gave them a seven-point lead to close the first quarter. Kelley ran for two scores in the opening quarter and gained 63 yards.
Thompson-Robinson and Kelley guided the Bruins’ second 16-play scoring drive of the first half. It took nearly eight-and-a-half minutes off the clock, highlighted by Kelley’s third touchdown run of the evening.
Daniels gimped off the field on Arizona State’s first possession of the second quarter and returned one play later, only to find his teammates on the sideline with him after the Sun Devils suffered their second three-and-out in four drives.
Arizona State drops to 5-2 overall and 2-3 in conference, with USC coming to Tempe on Nov. 9.
UCLA improves to 3-5 overall and 3-2 in the Pac-12 South, trailing Utah and USC. The Bruins host Colorado next week at the Rose Bowl.
With games against Utah and USC remaining on the Bruins’ schedule, UCLA still has a puncher’s chance at capturing a Pac-12 South title this season.
Kelly said, “The best thing I can say is that the Baby Bruins are growing up.”
Blake Atwell is a multimedia journalist and sophomore at Santa Monica College.