Arizona State came into their game with UCLA on Saturday wounded. The previous game with Utah was a lesson for them. The Sun Devils were physically dominated by the Utes. ASU learned that they were not on the level of Utah at this point. On Saturday afternoon, the Sun Devils had a chance to correct the direction of their season.
Arizona State blew that opportunity in the first half of their game with the Bruins.
Lets call it what it was on Saturday for the Sun Devils.
Horrific. Most specifically, an epic meltdown.
Arizona State came into this game 5-2 overall, 2-2 in conference, and with a chance to keep pace with the rest of the Pac-12 South Division.
Now, the Sun Devils find themselves at 5-3 and 2-3 in the Pac-12 South Division after their 42-32 loss to UCLA.
In this first half in Pasadena, Arizona State let Chip Kelly’s offense run wild. The defense wasn’t getting three and outs. ASU was letting UCLA running back, Josh Kelley, run all over the field. Kelley finished the game with 34 rushes, 164 yards, and averaged nearly five yards a carry. Kelley also rushed for a career high four touchdowns. The Sun Devils had no answer for Josh Kelley.
UCLA’s ability to run the ball effectively and then mix in timely passes kept the Sun Devil defense confused and off balance all game.
When you’re not on the field you can’t score. Well, by keeping the first down chains moving UCLA had a huge difference in time of possession for the game. The Bruins had the ball for 38 minutes compared to 22 minutes for Arizona State.
The Sun Devils found themselves down 28-7 at halftime. Most writers in the press box, especially the writers from Arizona found themselves in shock at this dismal first half performance.
I came into this game thinking that the game was going to be close. Maybe a field goal difference either way. By halftime I was thinking that this game was over.
UCLA began the fourth quarter up 42-10 and then had to withstand a 22 point rally by the Sun Devils to walk out of The Rose Bowl Stadium with a 42-32 win.
All the credit goes to the UCLA with this win. The Bruins are 3-2 in conference play and considering how the season started for UCLA, the Bruins will take this record. UCLA is one game behind Utah and USC for the lead in the South Division of the Pac-12.
On the other side of the ledger is Arizona State. I am sure most Sun Devil fans figured that this team would come out with the victory on Saturday. However, this is why they play the game.
The Sun Devils didn’t show up on Saturday until it was to late. ASU head coach, Herm Edwards, has always said “You play to win the game”.
On Saturday evening the Sun Devils didn’t play to win anything. Arizona State let the game get away from them in the first half. With a bye week coming up this week, the Sun Devils will be doing a lot of looking in the mirror.
“For me, it more than the score. It was our emotions. We didn’t handle them very good and at times I felt like we weren’t having the energy for football. I told them at halftime that ‘you play like this. I don’t know what the score is gonna be. I don’t what is going to happen.’”. Herm Edwards said in his post game press conference.
Coach Edwards just wanted them to win the second half at that point. Which the Sun Devils did do, but it was to little to late by then.
“I told them that it should hurt. It’s going to hurt.” Coach Edwards said after the game.
Arizona State is now on a two game losing streak and the positive vibes that the program had going just a couple weeks ago are completely gone. The national ranking is a pipe dream. A once promising season has turned sour and if the Sun Devils are going to fix their ills then a ton of work has to be done during the bye week.
With Pac-12 South Division foe, USC, coming to town in a couple weeks, the Sun Devils can’t afford to slip up anymore. The time for excuses is over for Arizona State.
The defense has to get off the field and the offense has to convert third downs. Not only third downs, but third and short situations.
There were times the Sun Devils had very manageable third and short situations, but came up short most of the time.
“I am going to make it my life mission this week to look at that. If we get one freaking yard on third down we are talking about us winning the game. In my opinion.” ASU OC, Rob Likens said.
Arizona State still has time to correct their errors and get back to winning, but starting in November the team needs to be as close to perfect as they can get.