Several Arizona State players return to California roots vs UCLA
If Arizona State wants to achieve its ambitions of playing in Pasadena in January, it may need an October victory inside the Rose Bowl.
After taking care of business in their Pac-12 opener 35-13 against Colorado, the Sun Devils travel to Southern California to take on No. 20 UCLA on Saturday.
ASU junior quarterback Jayden Daniels completed 18-of-25 passes for 236 yards and also ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns against the Buffaloes.
UCLA never trailed in its 35-24 victory against Stanford this past Saturday. UCLA redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson impressed with two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.
What: Arizona State (3-1, 1-0) at No. 20 UCLA (3-1, 1-0)
When: Saturday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Betting Line via FanDuel: UCLA -3.5
Radio: ESPN 620AM or 98.7 HD-2
Homecoming for some Sun Devils
ASU’s homecoming game may not come until the end of October, but some Sun Devils will experience a homecoming of their own.
More than 25 players come from a town within 50 miles of Los Angeles. The Sun Devils signal caller, Daniels, hails from San Bernardino which is just 55 miles from the Rose Bowl.
Graduate senior wide receiver Bryan Thompson is another one of the players from Southern California who come from just outside that radius.
Thompson, alongside sophomore running back DeaMonte Trayanum and graduate senior cornerback Chase Lucas, will be back on the field after missing last week’s game against Colorado.
Arizona State coach Herm Edwards mentioned some of the distractions that can come with those who are returning to their roots. He said that despite all of that, the team’s attention needs to be squarely on the field when action begins.
“A lot of times, they get excited about going back home, but they have to keep their poise and make sure that this thing doesn’t get away from them,” Edwards said.
That task has not been easy for the Sun Devils, at least in recent years. ASU has lost its last two away games against UCLA, allowing at least 40 points in each game.
In ASU’s last visit to the Rose Bowl in 2019, the Sun Devils committed nine penalties for 72 yards.
Despite some improvement against Colorado, penalties have been a big issue for ASU. The Sun Devils have committed at least seven penalties in all four games this season. Even with some improvement, Edwards continues to send the message to try and limit the mistakes.
“Just don’t muck it up,” Edwards said.
Bruins carry sustained offense explosiveness
UCLA’s offense, led by Thompson-Robinson, has had no trouble in putting points on the board. The Bruins have scored at least 35 points in all four of their games this season.
Going beyond this season, UCLA has six straight games of 35 or more points. In fact, ASU was the last team to hold the Bruins below that threshold in 2020.
In some instances, three downs may not be enough to take the Bruins’ offense off the field. UCLA has converted two fourth down’s on four attempts this season and Edwards said that UCLA’s decision-making is based on the flow of the game.
“When [UCLA head coach Chip Kelly] feels like he has momentum, he’s going to go for it,” Edwards said.
Thompson-Robinson has impressed throughout the season for the Bruins at quarterback.
He is 51-of-89 with 919 yards and nine touchdowns. His two rushing touchdowns last week were his first of the season.
Edwards credited UCLA’s running game as well. Junior Zach Charbonnet and redshirt senior Brittain Brown have both gotten considerable playing time at running back. Edwards called both players “big, bruising runners.”
Charbonnet has been the most successful of the pair with 363 yards and seven touchdowns. Brown has also been productive with 267 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bruin defense does a good job of stopping the run, allowing only 256 yards and three touchdowns on the ground so far this season.
However, the same cannot be said about UCLA’s passing defense. The Bruins have allowed an average of 330 yards per game in their first four games.