From day one, head coach Todd Graham talked about winning championships.
In year two, he’s put his team in position to win the Pac-12 Championship.
ASU withstood a second-half rally to defeat UCLA by a final of 38-33 in front of 70,131 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
The Sun Devils dominated the first two quarters with quarterback Taylor Kelly rushing for a score and passing for another. His 19-yard touchdown throw to receiver Jaelen Strong gave ASU a 22-point lead at the break. The Sun Devils then held off UCLA despite being outscored 20-3 after halftime.
The victory clinched the Pac-12 South division and now sends ASU to the conference championship game against Stanford. The Sun Devils will host that game on Saturday December 7 if they are able to beat Arizona next week.
Marion Grice finished with 269 total yards (96 rushing, 72 receiving, 101 return). It was his 13th straight game of over 100 all-purpose yards, the fourth-longest active streak among all FBS players.
Zane Gonzalez made his 15th straight field goal, a 28-yarder in the third quarter to extend the Sun Devils’ lead to 38-27. He improved to 19-of-22 on the season.
The Sun Devils recorded their fourth pick-6 (Carl Bradford 18-yard return) of the season and the seventh under Graham. ASU had four such plays in the previous three seasons prior to his arrival.
The Sun Devils scored first (Kelly’s three-yard run) for the fourth straight game and have now scored first in 20 of 24 games under Graham. ASU has scored on its opening drive in seven of 11 games this season.
Special teams breakdowns, and there were several.
Sophomore Ishmael Adams, UCLA’s starting cornerback, had kick returns of 58 and 69 yards, plus a punt return of 48 yards to set up each of his team’s three first half scoring drives on the Sun Devils’ side of the field.
Then in the third quarter, punter Alex Garoutte could not handle a low snap by Easton Wahlstrom. The ball was recovered by UCLA at the Sun Devils’ 15-yard line. Four plays later, running back Paul Perkins scored from a yard out, pulling the Bruins to within a possession, 35-27.
WHEN IT WAS OVER
The Sun Devils’ sixth straight victory was not secured until UCLA receiver Jordan Payton was stopped short of the first down on a fourth down and 35 leaving five seconds on the clock.