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Fork Report: Arizona State holds on late for win over UCLA

Arizona State's Kalen Ballage, right, runs with the ball as UCLA's Adarius Pickett (6) moves in for the tackle during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

History does repeat itself.

The latest example, Saturday night, when Arizona State, down to its third-string quarterback, bounced back into the win column following an embarrassing loss the week prior.

Brady White passed for a touchdown, Demario Richard rushed for a touchdown and Zane Gonzalez kicked two of his three field goals in the second half to help lead ASU past visiting UCLA, 23-20, in front of 48,509 at Sun Devil Stadium.

White, replacing injured starter Manny Wilkins, went 19-of-36 for 179 yards, before he, too, got hurt.

True freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole finished the game at quarterback.

At halftime, the game was tied at 3.

The final stats don’t tell the whole story, as UCLA outgained ASU 444-275 with Bruins quarterback, and likely future NFL first-round draft pick, Josh Rosen throwing for 400 yards and two touchdowns. He was picked off once and sacked three times.

At one point, the Sun Devils defense knocked Rosen out of the game, forcing backup Mike Fafaul to play a handful of series.

Gonzalez’s third field goal, and ultimately the difference in the game, set the FBS record for most made field goals for a career with 89.

And just as they had done in 2015, ASU (5-1, 2-1) rebounded from its loss to USC with a victory over UCLA (3-3, 1-2).

The Sun Devils had not beaten the Bruins in Tempe since 2010, snapping the road team’s four-game winning streak in the series.

It’s the first time ASU won back-to-back meetings in the series since 2007-08.

THE GOOD

Great defensive effort by JoJo Wicker to help set up the Sun Devils first score of the game. On UCLA’s second possession, Rosen dropped back to pass, but the ball slipped out of his hand and fell the ground. Seeing that, Wicker first hit Rosen, knocking him out of the way, and then fell on the ball. Four plays later, Gonzalez made a 35-yard field goal to put ASU up 3-0 at the 7:54 mark of the first quarter. The Sun Devils have scored first in 41 of 58 games under head coach Todd Graham.

Much maligned through the season’s first five games, the Sun Devil defense came to play in the first half, especially against the run. At halftime, the Bruins had a total of 16 rushing yards on 16 attempts. An effort like that will certainly help the defensive numbers. ASU entered the day ranked first in the conference and 18th nationally in rushing defense (107.4). In addition, the Sun Devils recorded a pair of sacks—D.J. Calhoun and Renell Wren—as well as four 3-and-outs from the Bruins.

In the history of Sun Devils football, there have been 18 players who have reached the 2,000-yard rushing mark. Make that 19. Richard joined the club in the third quarter. It happened during a seven-play, 57-yard scoring drive in which Richard had a five-yard touchdown run to put ASU ahead 13-3 at the 8:29 mark. It was his second rushing score of the season and the team’s 18th, one fewer than they totaled all of last season. Through three quarters Richard had rushed for 64 yards.

Getting the start at safety, Marcus Ball had perhaps his best game of the season. For starters, he picked off Rosen early in the fourth quarter, which led to Gonzalez’s 46-yard field goal and a 23-13 lead at the 12:28 mark. It was the first interception thrown by Rosen in 128 pass attempts. But more than that, Ball was all over the field. He finished with a team-best 10 tackles — all solo by the way — and he helped stuff the Bruins rushing attack. UCLA totaled minus-one yard on 23 attempts.

THE BAD

Three, count ’em, three penalties committed by the Sun Devils in the first quarter. Two belonged to Tashon Smallwood. Both were 15-yarders. First, Smallwood was flagged for roughing the passer on UCLA’s opening drive. Two possessions later, Smallwood was whistled for grabbing the facemask of the ball carrier. The three penalties totaled 35 yards. ASU entered the day fifth in the conference and 45th nationally in penalty yards per game (49.8).

It’s one of Graham’s favorite sayings, “We got to have 100-percent ball security.” It’s happened just once this season, Week 2 vs. Texas Tech. Twice the Sun Devils turned the ball over in the second quarter. First, Ballage fumbled out of the “Sparky” formation. On the next possession, White was picked off. He threw into double coverage and the ball was intercepted by Fabian Moreau. The good news here is that neither takeaway resulted in UCLA points.

The return of Rosen at the 8:29 mark of the third quarter also marked the return of the Bruins offense as UCLA scored 10 points in less than three minutes to tie the game at 13 with 3:08 remaining in the period. First, Rosen directed a seven-play, 73-yard scoring drive that ended with a field goal. He then led a five-play, 67-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 52-yard touchdown pass to Jorden Lasley, who broke several tackles on the reception.

STAT OF THE GAME

+1: The Sun Devils won the turnover battle, converting their four takeaways into nine points, otherwise known as a trio of Gonzalez field goals.

HE SAID IT

“First and foremost, give credit to UCLA for coming out there and fighting,” Ball said. “But, we have a tremendous group of guys. We knew this game was going to be on this defense. We fought so hard. Our guys have so much heart, and it showed up tonight.”

NOTED

Gonzalez was handed the football by Graham following his fourth-quarter career record-breaking made field goal.

Gonzalez has now scored at least one point in 45 consecutive games, tying the school record with Luis Zendejas.

Sophomore cornerback Kareem Orr exited early in the second quarter with an apparent right lower leg/ankle injury.

Junior linebacker Christian Sam again did not play; this was his fifth consecutive game missed with an ankle injury.

ASU’s gameday captains included White, Wilkins, Gonzalez and tight end Kody Kohl; Wilkins was in street clothes.

Eight Sun Devil greats were honored at halftime, including tight end Zack Miller and offensive lineman Levi Jones.

Scouts from six NFL teams—the Broncos, Cardinals, Dolphins, Eagles, Texans and Titans—were in the pressbox.

Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson, who played at UCLA from 1997-2001, was spotted on the Bruins sidelines.

UP NEXT

It’s back on the road for the Sun Devils, who will play two of their next three games away from Sun Devil Stadium.

They travel to Colorado on Saturday, Oct. 15. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning two hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

ASU has never lost to Colorado, including a 3-0 record at Folsom Field and a 5-0 mark since the Buffaloes joined the Pac-12 in 2011.

ASU won last season’s matchup, 48-23.

Offensively, the Sun Devils have scored at least 30 points, while defensively, they have not allowed more than 24 in any of the previous six meetings.

Overall, ASU leads the all-time series 7-0, dating back to 2006.

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