Pasadena, CA – It is hard to say that the fifth game of the season could dictate where any team’s season is going to head. UCLA has not been in this position in quite some time, but lessons were learned after their crushing defeat against Fresno State two weeks ago. At the same time, Arizona State suffered a late game setback against BYU. Both came into the Rose Bowl with victories. But entering this game with a 1-0 conference record with favorites in the division falling apart, both felt the pressure with how important this game became.
The question though was who was ready to compete and make their statement. Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels, who has had his fair share of criticism since becoming a Sun Devil, held his own and dominated when he needed to. In the second quarter alone ne nearly racked 200 yards, connecting twice in the end zone. Arizona State practically controlled every bit of UCLA in a 42-23 win where the Sun Devils did not seem to need the ball for very long to prove their worth.
“Jayden Daniels was the most athletic kid we have faced so far,” Chip Kelly said. “We have to clean up our emotion during the game. We were frustrated, and we gave this team too many freebies that basically gave them the game.”
On paper stat wise UCLA looked impressive. Dorian Thompson Robinson and Zach Charbonnet ran at will. The Bruins held the ball more and had some tempo with a balanced attack. The killers though were when Arizona State came through when they needed two. Three plays of fifty or more yards earned them all touchdowns, the final one with Rachaad White covering 50 yards on the ground for a touchdown, and then electing to go for two pushing UCLA to a nine point deficit. It then put the Bruins in bind on their next drive.
“We had a hard time stopping the ball,” Kelly said. “We could not control the threats of the game.”
UCLA managed to drive close to the goal line up to the start of the fourth quarter down nine. On fourth down, Kelly kept his special teams on the sideline to gamble for six points. He left with nothing when Thompson Robinson was tackled behind the line of scrimmage on a quarterback keeper. It made matters worse when Daniels had his fun going 96 yards on the ensuing drive, eventually putting the game well out of reach when the Sun Devil defense on the next drive took down Thompson Robinson in the backfield with three sacks.
“I felt like we could get it in and we didn’t,” Kelly said. “It was a chance I felt confident with but it ended up not going in our favor.”
Arizona is up next before they head on the road to Washington. Their chance at a Pac-12 title is not done, but losing to teams they need to beat within their division does not bode well with even conference records. What is important now is that UCLA returns back to the Rose Bowl ready for Oregon, hoping they return with two wins. Who knows what this season could become if they finish .500 on the road trip.
“Momentum was big for us, and we could not find a way to gain it,” Kelly said. “We need to clean that part of the game up. We had the ball for a good amount of time, but when you get your first and 10 and it turns from 2nd and 4 to 2nd and 24 at times, it makes the flow of the game hard to maintain. We go on one week deals and we will get ready for Arizona starting Monday. We don’t talk about overall records or conference records. We have to mentally be ready and be back on track.”