Responding after tough, disappointing losses has been a Todd Graham trademark through his first three seasons at Arizona State.
Make that four seasons now.
A week after getting embarrassed at home to USC, the Sun Devils beat No. 7 UCLA, winning 38-23 in front of 80,113 at the Rose Bowl.
ASU (3-2, 1-1) not only perhaps saved its season, but they most certainly put themselves back in the mix in the Pac-12 South.
Leading 29-10 midway through the third quarter, the Sun Devils withstood a furious comeback attempt by UCLA (4-1, 1-1) to win for the second time in as many trips to L.A.
Kalen Ballage secured the victory with a 23-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds remaining after the Bruins had made it a one score game, 29-23.
Mike Bercovici passed for two touchdowns and rushed for a third. He finished 27-of-44 for 273 yards.
His counterpart, Josh Rosen, was 22-of-40 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Stopping the run was key for the Sun Devils, who held Paul Perkins to 63 yards and UCLA’s overall rushing attack to 60 yards.
The ASU win kept alive the streak of the road team winning each of the last four meetings.
-With his first-quarter 28-yard reception, D.J. Foster set the Sun Devils school record for consecutive games with at least one catch at 45, breaking a tie with John Jefferson (1974-77). It’s the longest active streak in the nation and represents every game Foster has played at ASU. He finished with four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. His last catch, nine yards for a fourth-quarter first down, pushed him past Jefferson for second all-time for career receptions at 189. Derek Hagan holds the ASU career record at 258.
-The Sun Devils defense forced four straight three-and-outs to begin the game, holding UCLA to -2 yards on 12 plays. On the 12th play, Viliami Latu pressured Rosen into throwing the ball away, but because the ball never reached the line of scrimmage and Rosen was in the end zone, intentional grounding was called resulting in a safety, the first recorded safety for ASU since 2013 and the first points scored by the defense or special teams this season.
-First-half sacks by Latu and D.J. Calhoun, the Sun Devils’ 10th and 11th of the season, matched the season total allowed by UCLA through its first four games. Protected by a veteran offensive line, Rosen had only been sacked twice, tied for sixth-fewest nationally.
-Great start to the second half for the Sun Devils. The defense forced a punt and then Bercovici capped a six-play, 64-yard drive with a 34-yard touchdown run, a career-long rush and his third rushing score of the season, for a 22-10 advantage with 11:05 to play in the third quarter. Bercovici now has ASU’s two longest rushing touchdowns this season, bettering his 19-yard score against Texas A&M.
-On the Sun Devils second possession, the offense self-destructed inside the red zone. Facing a third-and-five at the UCLA 15, Bercovici mishandled the shotgun snap and fumbled the ball, losing six yards. Zane Gonzalez then missed a 44-yard field goal. It was Gonzalez’s third straight miss and fourth overall in seven attempts this season.
-It wasn’t until UCLA’s seventh possession that the Bruins converted their initial first down. Perkins rushed for four yards on third-and-three, keeping a drive going that finished with a Rosen touchdown toss to Thomas Duarte. Prior to the score, Stephen Johnson caught a 50-yard pass, beating Jordan Simone, who also whiffed trying to tackle Perkins on his third down run.
-More red zone issues for the Sun Devils in the second quarter. Positioned at the UCLA 15 after a 26-yard catch by Gary Chambers, ASU was forced to settle for a field goal—Gonzalez hit from 31 yards for a 12-7 advantage with 3:58 to play in the first half—after Kody Kohl and Foster dropped passes near the goal line. The Sun Devils scored on three of their four first-half trips inside the 20 yard line, but only one touchdown.
-Entering the final quarter, the Sun Devils had held Perkins to 26 yards on 14 carries. But on his 15th rushing attempt, Perkins ran 29 yards to the ASU 4. Two plays later, he scored from one-yard out to pull the Bruins to within 29-16 at 13:52 of the fourth quarter. Perkins was averaging 128.5 yards per game.
STAT OF THE GAME
3-of-14: UCLA’s conversion rate on third down a week after the Sun Devils allowed USC to convert 10-of-16
HE SAID IT
“Obviously, really, really proud of our players. They showed great character tonight,” said Graham, who earned his 80th career victory. “This was a pretty gratifying effort.”
-Demario Richard has eclipsed 100 yards of total offense (136; 81 rushing, 55 receiving) in every game this season
-Gonzalez became just the fourth kicker in ASU history to reach 50 career field goals
-Matt Haack dropped five of his eight punts inside the 20, setting a new career-high
-ASU forced a season-best nine three-and-outs, surpassing the previous high of five vs. Texas A&M
-ASU improved to 21-1 under Graham when holding the opposition scoreless in the first quarter and 3-0 this season
-ASU improved to 27-1 under Graham when leading at halftime
-After spending the past three games in the press box, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell moved back to the sidelines to call plays
-De’Chavon Hayes switched numbers, from 1 to 16, as he debuted on defense, playing cornerback
-Safety Armand Perry missed his third straight game due to a left ankle injury he suffered against Cal Poly
The Sun Devils return home.
ASU hosts Colorado on Saturday, October 10. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning two hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Last season, the Sun Devils won the matchup, 38-24, in Boulder; and they have beaten the Buffaloes every year since 2011, when Colorado joined the conference.
In the past two games in Tempe, Graham’s team has won by a combined 102-27 score.
Overall, ASU is 6-0 all-time against Colorado in a series that dates back to 2006.
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