ASU has no answer for UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, WR Kazmeir Allen
TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils (3-6, 2-4 Pac-12) had no answer for No. 10 UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and wide receiver Kazmeir Allen on Saturday night.
In ASU’s 50-36 defeat to the Bruins at Sun Devil Stadium, UCLA (8-1, 5-1; No. 12 CFP) scored seven touchdowns on 571 total yards of offense, including a staggering 402 rushing yards.
“I take all the blame for not preparing us defensively and offensively for this game,” Arizona State interim head coach Shaun Aguano said postgame. “It’s not on them. It’s on me. I want to make sure that everybody understands that.
“We’ll get it fixed. Our kids played til the last whistle. The fans showed up tonight and we didn’t take care (of business). I wanted to thank them, too. … Our kids played their hearts out.”
Thompson-Robinson combined for a total of 289 yards and four touchdowns. He split those with 169 passing yards for two scores and added 120 rushing yards for two TDs with his legs.
The dual-threat quarterback used defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson’s coverages against him by exposing man-to-man and carving through soft zones. Now that’s not an indictment on ASU’s secondary, but more of a result of what happens when a mobile quarterback has time in the pocket and is able to freely escape.
When the Sun Devils were in man coverage, Thompson-Robinson was able to take off with receivers downfield and ASU defenders following them with their backs turned to the quarterback. And then when Arizona State was in soft zone coverages, the UCLA quarterback was able to find the weak spots to keep the chains moving.
“(Thompson-Robinson) on that team is tough whenever he gets going, he’s probably one of the best athletes out there,” Aguano said. “We didn’t fit run fits, we didn’t wrap up like we should. It’s absolutely inexcusable.
“You can’t win games letting a team run for 400 yards on you, that’s just unacceptable. I’ll get back into my office and turn on the film and watch that before I go home and try to figure out what needs to be done before next week.”
Even the addition of a spy could not slow down Thompson-Robinson in short-yardage situations, as exemplified by this four-yard touchdown run with ASU linebacker Kyle Soelle mirroring the QB.
— Jake Anderson (@jwa1994) November 6, 2022
The Sun Devils did manage to garner two sacks on the night and an interception on the very first snap of the game, but the Bruins were an astounding 9-for-11 (82%) on third down.
“We’ve been having trouble all season (on third down),” Aguano said. “We get them in a third-and-12 and they’re running stop routes at 14 yards and we’re in the area but not attached to somebody. That’s a problem.
“I need to go back and get with the defensive coaches and see what we need to do about that because they’re working hard on first and second, but third down we’re not getting it done. … I’m disappointed in how we played in the second quarter on offense and how our defense played trying to stop the run.”
A large reason for that other than the play of Thompson-Robinson was Allen, who put up a total of 200 yards from the line of scrimmage. Allen served as both a wideout and a running back with starting RB Zach Charbonnet sidelined for an unknown reason.
The 5-foot-9 Allen, who came in to Saturday night’s contest as UCLA’s leader in receptions, had four grabs for 63 receiving yards while also rushing 11 times for 137 yards (12.5 per carry) and one touchdown. ASU’s defense struggled to handle his speed in the open field.
— Jake Anderson (@jwa1994) November 6, 2022
“We were a little (shorthanded),” Aguano said of missing defensive linemen Omarr Norman-Lott and Nesta Jade Silvera in the second half. “I thought UCLA did a great job blocking us and we didn’t run fit.
“A couple of times we had quarterback and we went on our read to the running back and the quarterback slipped out the back end. We need to make sure we are better in the run fit category and we haven’t been the last couple games. They averaged (9.6) yards a carry and that’s unacceptable.”
– ASU starting left guard LaDarius Henderson missed his third straight game due to a finger injury.
– Norman-Lott was unavailable in the second half due to illness, while Silvera was seen walking to the locker room just before halftime and never returned to the playing field. Aguano added the former didn’t practice all week due to a bug that went around the team.
Arizona State travels north to Pullman to take on Washington State next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7, the Arizona Sports app and ArizonaSports.com.