After fast start, Bruins fizzle against ASU

PASADENA (News4usonline) – Football is a game of adjustments. The UCLA Bruins didn’t look like they made too many in their 42-23 loss to Arizona State Saturday night at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

The win puts Arizona State (4-1, 2-0) squarely at the top of the Pac-12 Conference South Division. UCLA, ranked No. 20 in the country coming into the ballgame, got bumped to fourth place with the defeat.

“It’s a week-to-week situation in the Pac-12,” Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards told reporters. “We all know that, and that’s how it works in our conference. I’ve told you guys this since I first got here. You never know what’s going to happen. You just see it. I just think every week, and that’s how we approach it getting into conference games. Players can enjoy it. It’s basically a relief for coaches that we won another conference game. We’ve won another [game] on the road, which is important. Now, we have a bigger one coming at home against a good team in Stanford.”

The Bruins can put the blame squarely on the feet and the right arm of Sun Devils quarterback Jayden Daniels. Daniels completed 13 of 19 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He also scrambled his way to 45 yards on six carries. The Bruins did not sack Daniels one time in the defeat.

 After fast start, Bruins fizzle against ASU
Oct. 2, 2021. Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) passed for 286 yards and two touchdowns in the Sun Devils’ 42-23 win against UCLA at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

“They did a good job. You’ve got to give them credit, first and foremost, and Jayden [Daniels] is obviously the most athletic kid who we’ve faced so far this season, in terms of being able to escape,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said of Daniels after the game.

Kelly continued, “We try and be conscious of our rush lanes, because if he does squirt loose, he could hurt you. Give them credit. Their line played really well. They did a really good job of protecting Jayden. When things did break down, we did a good job of getting after him, and he made some plays with his feet.”

That impressive win against LSU in Week 2 is nothing but a distant memory now for the Bruins. Since that victory, the Bruins have lost two of their last three games. Those two defeats have come at the Rose Bowl Stadium, a place that UCLA calls home.

First, Fresno State walked out of Pasadena with a wild 40-37 win. Saturday night, Arizona State just mowed the lawn with the Bruins in securing a win. In their two defeats, UCLA surrendered 40 or more points. Arizona State torched the Bruins defense for 463 yards in their road victory.

“We have to be responsible on each level of the ball,” UCLA linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath said.  “When we pressure and send seven instead of eight, we have to get home. We put our DB’s in compromised positions. As you know, it’s hard to cover especially good receivers like that when they get in the open field. We just have to do our jobs in all facets.”

Oc.t. 1, 2021. UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) attempts to get out of harm’s way against Arizona State. Thompson-Robinson was sacked four times by the Sun Devils in the Bruins’ 42-23 defeat at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

While Kelly’s offense has managed to put points on the scoreboard, the Bruins’ defense has played suspect in the back-to-back home losses. The Bruins scored all 23 of its points in the first half. The Sun Devils’ defense came to life in the third and fourth quarters to keep the Bruins off the scoreboard in the second half.

“It is very disappointing,” Kelly said. “But I think that there were a couple penalties on offense that really hurt a few drives. And then to get the ball in there tight and to come away with none, we have to do a better job. Obviously, we played well on offense in the first half. We did not play well on offense in the second half.”

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who completed 21 of 32 passes for 235 yards and rushed for an additional 117, put the onus on the Bruins’ defeat on the number of penalties the Bruins accumulated throughout the game, especially in the second half.

“I think just penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times,” Thompson-Robinson said. “But again, I have to go back and watch film and all that stuff to give me a clear idea.”

This was a weird game. If you look at the numbers, Kelly’s offense appeared to have outplayed Herman Edward’s team.  If you look at the time of possession (35 minutes to 25 minutes), first downs (22-17), rushing yards (215-172), and the total number of plays (82-51), UCLA checked all of those boxes in being ahead of the Sun Devils.

UCLA versus Arizona State
Oct. 2, 2021. Arizona State DeaMonte Trayanum (1) rushes for some of his team-high 72 yards against UCLA. The Sun Devils rushed for 187 yards against the Bruins. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

So what happened? Not getting enough pressure on Daniels is one avenue to point at.

“I think with how much we pressure a lot of teams are seven-man protecting which makes it harder for us to get there,” Genmark Heath said. “But at the end of the day, we have to win our one-on-one’s and we have to execute our jobs on all aspects of the ball. And especially when you gamble in a sense or you pressure that much, we believe in our guys, the pressure has to get home because that’s the whole point of it.”

For his team, Daniels called the win against UCLA a meaningful one when it comes to the Pac-12 Conference standings and Sun Devils postseason aspirations.

“It was a huge team win,” remarked Daniels. “ I know a lot of guys are from southern California. It means a lot to me personally. There were a lot of implications on this game. The job is not finished, one week, one game.