TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State had the momentum. It was in position to tie the game or even take the lead in the closing seconds of the first half.
Instead, Mike Bercovici threw a ball over the middle that Ishmael Adams snared and turned into a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Momentum gone, along with the game.
Adams gave UCLA a boost with his interception return right before halftime, and then had a 100-yard kickoff return for another score in the third quarter, sending No. 15 Arizona State to a disheartening 62-27 loss to No. 11 UCLA on Thursday night.
“Absolutely unacceptable on my behalf — 100 percent on me,” Bercovici said. “I’ve got to understand the situation. We have three points there. We got a great field-goal kicker. We can’t put the ball in jeopardy. It’s a learning experience. I’ll never do it again.”
UCLA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) won its first three games by a combined 18 points against non-ranked opponents, raising questions about just how good the Bruins are this season.
They provided an emphatic answer — at least on offense — by turning a matchup of the past two Pac-12 South champions into a rout, scoring 28 points during a 7-minute span of the second and third quarters.
UCLA had 582 yards of total offense, five plays of 80 yards or longer and scored the most points in the 55-year-history of Sun Devil Stadium.
Brett Hundley was the catalyst, returning from a left arm injury to hurdle defenders, dive for first downs and complete passes all over the field. He threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns on an efficient 18-of-23 passing, including an 80-yard score to Jordan Payton to open the second half.
“It’s an absolute inspiration to offense, defense and special teams for him to not just play, but to be out jumping over guys and diving on the ground,” UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said.
The downside for the Bruins was the defense.
Arizona State (3-1, 1-1) ran a staggering 105 plays and gained 626 yards against the young Bruins defense.
The problem for the Sun Devils was a few of their faults were exposed, too.
The rebuilt defense had its hands full with Hundley and the Bruins all night, giving up a string of big plays.
Bercovici showed flashes of brilliance in replacing injured starter Taylor Kelly, throwing for 488 yards and three touchdowns in his first start while setting school records with 42 completions on 68 attempts.
He also displayed his penchant for turning the ball over, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble that led to a UCLA touchdown.
The combination sent the Sun Devils an ugly loss after three wins to start the season.
“That was embarrassing. It was a frustrating night,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. “The standard that we set here was not met tonight.”
Bercovici had been waiting for this chance since Kelly beat him out as Arizona State’s starter in 2012.
Kelly injured his right foot against Colorado on Sept. 13 and was still on crutches when he went out for the coin flip.
Jittery early, Bercovici seemed to right himself with 5-yard touchdown pass to Kody Kohl and added a 29-yard scoring pass to Cameron Smith just over the reach of a UCLA defender.
He had some shaky moments after that, throwing a pair of interceptions, including the one Adams returned for a touchdown with 2 seconds left in the first half.
The Bruins poured it on after that.
Hundley threw his long touchdown to Payton, Adams raced off on his kick return and Nate Starks put UCLA up 48-20 on a 1-yard run, two plays after Bercovici lost a fumble at the Arizona State 23.
“Obviously, things didn’t go our way with the kickoff return and the fumble,” Bercovici said. “We can only blame ourselves for those because they’re so self-inflicted wounds and UCLA did such a great job on defense and special teams.”
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