The much-anticipated matchup between Arizona State and UCLA ended up being a major let down for the Sun Devils who saw an 11- point first-half lead turn into a 62-27 blowout loss to the Bruins before a near capacity crowd of 60,876 inside a steamy Sun Devil Stadium. UCLA improves to 4-0, 1-0 while the Sun Devils fall to 3-1, 1-1.
Here are five things we learned in the loss.
1. Blacked Out: ASU came out strong with a 17-6 lead early in the first half. In the blink of an eye, they got outscored 35-3 into the start of the third quarter with everyone wondering, ‘what just happened?’ The problem? The one thing head Coach Todd Graham pegged earlier in the week: explosive plays. The Devils surrendered seven touchdowns in the game. Those touchdowns alone combined for 363 total yards and they happened in all three phases of the game which included the demoralizing 95-yard interception return for touchdown in the second and kick return for a score in the third both by UCLA’s Ishmael Adams. “Well, that was embarrassing,” Graham said to open his post-game comments. He said earlier in the week explosive plays would be the difference and boy, was he right.
2. Oh No, Berco: Redshirt junior Mike Bercovici made his first career start in a Sun Devils uniform to mixed reviews. The good: 488 passing yards and three touchdowns. The bad: two killer interceptions, a lost fumble and issues at times with accuracy, specifically on intermediate and crossing routes. The Adams pick-six changed the complexion of the game heading into halftime. “Unacceptable on my behalf,” he said. “I gotta understand the situation…I can’t put the ball in jeopardy.” He will certainly benefit from the experience playing against a fast, athletic defense like the Bruins but will need to make better decisions as long as Taylor Kelly’s foot injury keeps him sidelined.
3. Sorry Secondary: If Colorado exposed some cracks UCLA busted down the wall Thursday night. ASU’s secondary struggled to tackle in space and had trouble containing the Bruins skilled receivers, as well as former Chandler High star Paul Perkins who helped the Bruins stay balanced with 137 rushing yards, including an 81-yarder late in the fourth quarter. Graham said some, including safety Jordan Simone, may have been too amped up for game and played recklessly in the process. “That was embarrassing the way we tackled,” a perplexed Graham said.
4. No Mora(l) Victories: Many teams have played second-half catch-up against UCLA’s Jim Mora and none have been successful. UCLA improved to a perfect 20-0 under Mora when the Bruins enter the locker room at the half with a lead. Thursday the Devils essentially gifted the visitors 14 points with book-end plays to end the second and start the third quarter. History has proven whoever doesn’t turn the ball over in this series wins. UCLA pitched a 4-0 shutout Thursday night.
5. Fight On: Graham’s Devils will get a couple extra days to lick their bear wounds before another big test in Los Angeles against Jekyll and Hyde USC. “Our guys will respond like champions,” he proclaimed looking ahead to next week. The 2-1 Trojans host unbeaten Oregon State (3-0) Saturday. You can bet the ‘Men of Troy’ haven’t forgotten last year’s 62-41 loss in Tempe which was the last game Lane Kiffin coached in cardinal and gold. ASU’s staff will have plenty to critique on film and work on next week before heading out to southern California.