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Fork Report: ASU loses early lead, momentum in loss to UCLA

UCLA running back Bolu Olorunfunmi, left, runs past Arizona State defensive lineman Renell Wren, top right, and defensive back Chase Lucas during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. UCLA won 44-37. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

This one is going to hurt. For awhile.

It’s one thing to get beat, it’s quite another to lose. And the Arizona State Sun Devils lost on Saturday.

With bowl eligibility staring at them in the face, the Sun Devils dropped a 44-37 decision to the UCLA Bruins in front of an announced crowd of 53,847 in the Rose Bowl.

ASU (5-5, 4-3) had won its last two trips to Pasadena and appeared on its way to a third straight victory, jumping out to a 14-0 lead.

And then momentum changed.

It began with a pick-6. The Bruins added two rushing touchdowns and a pair of field goals and a quick check of the scoreboard saw UCLA ahead, 27-24 just four minutes into the third quarter.

The Sun Devils rallied to tie the game at 34, but then they were outscored 10-3 in the fourth quarter and lost for the second time in three weeks.

Josh Rosen looked good after a one-game absence due to a concussion. He scored twice, one passing and one rushing. He threw a 22-yard touchdown to Jordan Lasley, who caught seven balls for 162 yards.

Rosen finished 25-of-45 for 381 yards and an interception to help UCLA (5-5, 3-4) snap a two-game losing streak.

Again, ASU got off to a good start. Manny Wilkins passed for a touchdown, a seven-yard score to N’Keal Harry, and Demario Richard rushed for a touchdown; the latter two-yard run made it 14-0.

The Sun Devils, though, went away from the run game and the game got away from them.

Wilkins (290 passing yards) and Richard (125 rushing yards) helped ASU outgain UCLA, 584-573.

THE GOOD

Picking up where they left off a week ago, the Sun Devils rushed for 100 first-quarter yards. Richard had 61 on 10 carries, including a two-yard run for a touchdown and 14-0 lead at the 3:39 mark. ASU, which totaled a season-best 381 yards against Colorado, averaged five yards on its 20 rushing attempts with a long of 22 yards courtesy Richard.

Entering the week, the Sun Devils ranked eighth in the conference averaging 150.2 yards per game on the ground. They had 203 rushing yards at halftime. The run game was highlighted by ASU’s second-quarter scoring drive in which all 10 plays were rushes, capped by Wilkins’ 16-yard touchdown up the middle for a  21-14 lead at the 7:55 mark.

For the second time in as many weeks, the Sun Devils’ special teams blocked a punt. It was Malik Lawal late in the third quarter. Even better, the loose football was picked up by Eno Benjamin and returned 22 yards for a touchdown which tied the game at 34 at the 2:13 mark of the period. Against Colorado, Khaylan Thomas recorded the punt block.

THE BAD

So, about that 14-0 lead, it disappeared in a matter of minutes, specifically three possessions. Nate Meadors had a 27-yard pick-6 and Rosen rushed for a one-yard touchdown; the latter tying the game at the 12:34 mark of the second quarter. The scores sandwiched a Sun Devils punt. On the interception, the ball was tipped. Three of Wilkins’ four interceptions have come off tipped passes.

Five of the Bruins’ six first-half chunk plays—runs of 10+ or passes of 15+ yards—came in the second quarter. All but one helped lead to scores. There was a 30-yard run and 23-yard pass that preceded Rosen’s one-yard touchdown; another 30-yard run and 59-yard pass before a field goal; and then a 15-yard pass prior to a second field goal. The Sun Devils defense put very little pressure on Rosen.

In the first half, Rosen recorded just 10 completions on 25 pass attempts. In the third quarter, he had 11. On 12 total throws. Rosen’s longest completion went for 56 yards to convert a 3rd-and-3. Two plays later, Bo Olorunfunmi scored from two yards out to extend the UCLA lead to its largest of the game, 34-24, at the 5:41 mark of the period. Rosen finished the quarter with 144 passing yards.

Twice on three fourth-down tries, the Sun Devils came up short. The first time had many people questioning why they even decided to go for it. On their first possession of the second half, and leading 21-20, Wilkins was stopped for no gain on 4th-and-5 at the UCLA 41. Six plays later, the Bruins scored on a Soso Jamabo 21-yard touchdown run and took their first lead of the game, 27-21, at the 11:21 mark of the third quarter.

STAT OF THE GAME

3-of-6: The Sun Devils scored touchdowns on three of their six red-zone trips; they were forced to settle for field goals on each of their three second-half visits inside the 20-yard line

HE SAID IT

“Should’ve ran the ball. Should’ve continued to run the ball. They couldn’t stop the run. We just did a poor job,” head coach Todd Graham said.

NOTED

Richard went over 100 rushing yards for the second time this season and 11th time in his career

For only the second time this season (at Stanford) the Sun Devils failed to sack the quarterback

Defensive starters George Lea and Dasmond Tautalatasi did not make the trip because of injury

UP NEXT

Another road game.

For the second time in as many weeks, the Sun Devils will play outside the state as they travel to Corvallis for a game against Oregon State (1-9, 0-7) on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning two hours earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

These teams have not played since 2014.

ASU has lost two of three, five of seven and six of the last nine matchups with Oregon State, which includes five straight defeats inside Reser Stadium, never reaching the 30-point mark.

Overall, the Sun Devils leads 27-13-1 in a series that dates back to 1961.

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