Saturday’s UCLA/Arizona State game was the very definition of a shootout. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, they came out on the losing end of this gunfight.
Bruins kicker Ka’i Fairbairn hit a 33-yard field goal at the final gun to lift UCLA over Arizona State 45-43.
The Sun Devils were down 42-33 with 9:01 left in the game, but moved ahead 43-42, when quarterback Taylor Kelly hit D.J. Foster on a seven-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone.
On the ensuing/game winning drive, UCLA would take the ball 60 yards down the field, setting Fairbairn up for the winning kick.
With the win, UCLA improves to 6-2, while Arizona State drops its second straight game, to fall to 5-3.
The win also pulls the Bruins even with the Sun Devils in the PAC-12 South. Both teams have a 3-2 record in the conference.
“We battled as a team,” head coach Todd Graham said. “I was proud of the guys. We played good enough offensively today to win. It came down to one drive and play, and we didn’t play very well.”
Early on, the Sun Devils looked like they were ready to run away with it.
Arizona State converted an early Bruin turnover into seven points. They’d follow that score with another one – this time on offense – as Foster and fellow running back Marion Grice would trade carries on their second drive, culminating with Grice taking it in from two yards out to make it 14-0 in the first quarter.
The Bruins would take those shots and dish out some of their own, tying it at 14 just before the end of the quarter.
The teams would trade scores throughout, as the two teams combined to go 14-14 in the red zone.
As Graham said, in the end, the Bruins made one more play than the Sun Devils did, which made them the victors on this day.
For the game, Kelly was 25-of-35 for 315 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Kelly says, despite going 8-8 in the red zone, the offense left a lot off the scoreboard.
“We went into the red zone a couple of times, put up three points, and went three and out or four and out,” Kelly said. “We were doing big things, protecting the football which was a huge part with under a minute left in the half. So I have to do a better job.”
Kelly’s counterpart, Brett Hundley, went 19-for-29 for 274 yards, four touchdowns and one interception for the Bruins.
“He played very well,” linebacker Brandon Magee said. “He was moving a lot in the pockets, but we just can’t allow him to scramble on the outside and step up and throw those extra yards and make plays with his feet. He was making some good plays out there and I have to respect that.”
From a statistical standpoint, the Sun Devils were the superior.
Arizona State ran 94 plays to UCLA’s 78.
They gained 535 yards to the Bruins 486.
Their running game was very effective, gaining 220 yards as a group.
All this is well and good if Arizona State was on the winning side of the game, but Graham made note of the little things he saw that ultimately helped lead them down the road to defeat.
“It had a lot to do with mental mistakes and missed assignments, and we have a lot of people getting hurt, and that’s part of football,” Graham said. “We just didn’t show up and play defensively today. You can’t win football games playing defense like that.”
Next up for the Sun Devils is a date with Oregon State next Saturday night in Corvallis, Ore.
Graham is aware of the significance of this game, especially with the team mired in a two-game slide.
“We have to go to Corvallis and we have to win,” Graham said. “I believe in this team, I believe in these guys, and I believe in how they’re going to finish and what they’re going to do.”