ASU defense challenged and holds late to stave off UCLA

Oct 2, 2021, 10:59 PM | Updated: Oct 5, 2021, 9:38 am

After a wild back-and-forth second quarter, it was the Arizona State defense that held firm in the second half to pick up a big Pac-12 win over UCLA.

With both teams exploding offensively in the second quarter, halftime adjustments by ASU held a high-powered Bruins offense off the scoreboard in the second half.

It led to a 42-23 win for the Sun Devils in Pasadena.

The win means that ASU is one of only two teams remaining in the Pac-12 South without a loss in conference play. Utah, who was idle on Saturday, is the other.

The ASU defense was challenged with starting safety Evan Fields ruled out before the game with an injury. Starting linebacker Kyle Soelle was then ejected at the end of the third quarter on a targeting call, and linebacker Darien Butler battled cramps to begin the fourth quarter.

Nonetheless, ASU’s defense buckled down.

“I just think this defense, we bend and don’t break.,” Butler said after the game.

On one of the most pivotal plays to begin the fourth quarter, freshman Eric Gentry stopped UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson on 4th and 1 from the 2-yard line to preserve a 32-23 ASU lead.

Eleven plays later, ASU added another touchdown and put the game nearly out of reach.

On UCLA’s next drive, the Bruins picked up one first down before running – or backing – into serious trouble.

Back-to-back sacks by ASU’s Anthonie Cooper set up UCLA with a 4th and 12 when Stanley Lambert sacked Thompson-Robinson for the third play in a row.

“Very difficult challenge with DTR, but I give our guys credit,” defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce said after the game.

ASU would add one more field goal to cross the 40-point mark on the night.

While both teams picked up more than 400 yards of offense, the bend-but-don’t-break mentality for the Sun Devils paid dividends in the second half.

ASU’s next game will be against Stanford in a quick turnaround on Friday night in Tempe.

UCLA head coach Chip Kelly stands on the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona State Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif. Arizona State won 42-23. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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