This is sort of a slow weekend of college football, but I keep talking about games I have been looking forward to for months.
This UCLA vs Arizona State game was another that I had been excited about months in advance.
The game in Los Angeles last season between these two teams was exciting and decided the champion of the Southern Division of the Pac 12 Conference in 2013.
Will it have as much meaning in 2014 as it did in 2013 as far as conference standings? I doubt it, with the re-emergence of USC, the improvements at Arizona and at Utah. It may come down to the last game between USC and UCLA which may be the way it should be. In 1967, I got my first start in college football and I clearly remember UCLA vs USC for the Conference and the National Championship. USC and OJ Simpson won the Conference and National Championships in that season and represented the Conference in the Rose Bowl.
There is still a chance for UCLA to win out and play for a National Championship.
If they could get past the Arizona State Sun Devils at their place in Tempe, Arizona.
Arizona State and UCLA both came into this game undefeated at 3-0.
The Sun Devils had beaten Weber State, 45-14. They had knocked New Mexico around, 58-23. They, then beat their first conference opponent in the rebuilding Colorado Buffaloes and their second year coach, 38-24.
The points allowed by Arizona State in those first 3 games should have been an omen for football fans of possible things to come. The Sun Devils had lost 9 starters on defense off of last year’s excellent football team.
But, the biggest problem Arizona State seemed to have coming into this game was the loss of outstanding Quarterback Taylor Kelly. He injured his foot against the Buffaloes in game 3 and will miss at least this game and possibly the USC game coming up next.
In spite of the loss of Taylor Kelly, the Sun Devils still had D.J. Foster who had 510 yards rushing so far in the first 3 games and 5 Touchdowns. Foster’s best game came against New Mexico when he put up 216 yards on 19 carries.
Arizona State also has Jaelen Strong at Wide Receiver who had 19 catches coming in. Strong is a big receiver at 6-3, 215 and more than likely NFL bound after this season.
Taylor Kelly’s replacement was Mike Bercovici a 6-1, 205 junior from Calabasas, California. Bercovici hasn’t played much but is supposed to have a better arm than Taylor Kelly.
The UCLA Bruins had their own problems.
They were 3-0 coming in but had not looked overly impressive in any win.
They were really kind of beat up against Virginia in their opening game, winning 28-20. But, the Bruins got 21 points from their defense and very little production out of their offense.
In their next game, it was the defense that was the guilty party as the offense moved the ball really well but the defense could not stop Memphis. UCLA won in a surprising offensive battle, 42-35.
In game three, they traveled to Arlington, Texas to take on the rebuilding and struggling Texas Longhorns. Heisman candidate Quarterback Brett Hundley went down in the first quarter with an injured left elbow. Backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel led the Bruins the rest of the way and they came from behind to beat Texas 20-17.
Some people actually thought UCLA would be one of the 4 teams to make the brand new playoffs and play for the national title. But, they had not looked very good so far in the season.
The UCLA Bruins most expected finally showed up on Thursday night, September 25th.
After a slow start to this game that saw both teams tied up at 3-3, ASU went up 10-3 on a 5 yard Mike Bercovici pass to Tight End Kody Kohl.
It seemed like Bercovici and the Devils came out to play.
UCLA had to settle for another Field Goal and ASU went up 17 to 6 when Bercovici hit Wide Receiver Cameron Smith for a 29 yard Touchdown.
Looked like things were going Arizona State’s way early on.
But, UCLA turned it up and Texas import Eldridge Massington broke seemingly 10 tackles and ran 80 yards for a Touchdown.
UCLA was only down 17-13. UCLA scored again on a 3 yard Touchdown pass from Quarterback Brett Hundley to Wide Receiver Nate Iese making it 20-17.
Bercovici lead his Sun Devils slowly and deliberately down the field right before half time to either kick a Field Goal to tie it up at 20 each or go ahead 24-20.
That play kind of broke the back of the Sun Devils because instead of being ahead at half or tied, they were now down by 27-17.
First play of the second half, Hundley hit the Bruins best Wide Receiver Jordan Payton on an 80 yard Touchdown making it 34-17.
But, once again, super return man Ishmael Adams broke the spirit of the Sun Devils with a return of 100 yards to take the Bruins up by 21.
The UCLA Bruins were dominating now and went up 48-20.
In spite of being way down, the Sun Devils managed to fight back and score again. The Bruin lead was now 48-27.
Hundley led the Bruins down the field on a 74 yard drive and they scored yet again making it 55-27.
Bruin Running Back Paul Perkins broke an 81 yard run and Hundley later scored on a 1 yard run and the score was then 62-27 and that was how the game ended.
Mike Bercovici was mostly admirable completing 42 passes out of 68 attempts for 488 yards and 3 Touchdowns. His 2 interceptions were pretty costly, but this was his first start ever.
Star Sun Devil Running Back D.J. Foster was not much of a factor at all being held to just 30 yards on 9 carries. He did catch 5 passes for 68 yards, but the Bruin defense did slow him down on the ground which was their goal.
Jaelen Strong still had 12 catches for 146 yards.
On the Bruins side, Brett Hundley may have played his way back into Heisman contention with an 18 completion out of 23 passes performance and 355 yards and 4 Touchdowns.
He also ran 8 times for 72 yards and another Touchdown.
Running Back Paul Perkins had a great night with 14 carries for 137 yards. Jordan Payton led a balanced Bruin attack at Wide Receiver with 5 catches for 151 yards and 2 Touchdowns.
It was a great night for the Bruin offense. The defense still has some work to do but they looked better in the second half.
This was a particularly fun game for the Bruins and their fans and something of a coming out party. Frustrating night for the Sun Devils but that had to have been expected after the loss of Taylor Kelly.
This was the UCLA Bruins most were expecting before the season started.