After scraping by the first three games of the year, winning each game by a touchdown or less, Brett Hundley and the UCLA offense exploded for 60-plus points in a huge 62-27 win over Arizona State on Thursday.
Both teams exchanged field goals to start the game, before Mike Bercovici found Kody Kohl from five yards out to give Arizona State the 10-3 lead late in the first quarter. Ka'imi added another UCLA field goal, and the Sun Devils responded with another great drive capped off by another Bercovici touchdown pass to extend their lead to 17-6.
From that point on it, was all UCLA till the final buzzer sounded. Brett Hundley found Eldridge Massington on a curl route that should have been just for a first down, but terrible tacking from ASU allowed Massington to take it all the way for the score, closing the gap to 17-13. UCLA got another touchdown late, but there was just enough time for Bercovici to mount another drive to put the Sun Devils on the board before the half ended. ASU got down inside the UCLA 10, but had no timeouts and were rushed to run a play before the half. Bercovici threw a bad pass over the middle, and Ishmael Adams intercepted it and took it 95-yards untouched, giving the Bruins an emphatic 27-17 lead at the half.
First play of the second half, Hundley connects with Jordan Payton for an 80-yard touchdown pass, pushing the Bruins ahead 34-17 early in the third quarter. Zane Gonzalez nailed his 3rd field goal of the night on the ensuing drive, keeping the Sun Devils in a two possession-game. Next play, Ishmael Adams adds a 100-yard kick return to his stat line to put UCLA up 41-20 late in the third. How did Ish do it? He had a lot of help on this big block from Ryan Hofmeister.
The Bruins coasted with 21 more points to end the game, knocking off Arizona State in Tempe. UCLA's 62 points on Thursday night is the most they have scored in a conference game since hanging 66 on Arizona in 2012.
Three things we learned
1. UCLA Offensive Line has improved pass protection: What has been a glaring problem for UCLA is the lack of protection Brett Hundley has been receiving in the backfield, with the offensive line giving up 11 sacks in the first three games of the year. Against the Sun Devils, the line did allow one sack, but for the most part played their most complete, and effective game in pass protection. Hundley was rarely forced out of the pocket or forced to make do on a broken play, effectively guiding the Bruins offense to over 350-yards through the air. It was definitely a breath of fresh air after bad performances against Virginia and Memphis to start the year.
2. Even without Taylor Kelly, ASU can be very effective offensively: Even though they were blown out by 30-plus points, the Sun Devils were able to out-gain Bruins 626-588 in Mike Bercovici's first collegiate start in Taylor Kelly's absence. Bercovici looked good throwing on the short routes Thursday, and save for the two interceptions he threw, looking good throwing to the back shoulder as well. It would seem the Sun Devils offense will be in good hands until Taylor Kelly gets back in a couple of weeks.
3. UCLA could be the team to beat in the Pac-12 South: After dominating Arizona State for the second half of Thursday's game, this UCLA team is the team we thought they would be before the season. The rest of the Pac-12 South took notice from Thursday's performance, and will have to be at their best if they want to contend with Hundley and the Bruins this year. Divisional foe Utah makes the journey out to the Rose Bowl to take on UCLA on October 4th, where another big win could put them closer and closer to a return to the Pac-12 Championship.