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Sun Devils Claw Back Late, Fall to UCLA In Final Minutes

Dec 5, 2020

Sun Devil Football vs. UCLA Series | PDF: Sun Devil 2020 Football Stats (0-2) | Postgame Notes: UCLA 25, ASU 18 | Postgame Quotes: UCLA 25, ASU 18 (Dec. 5, 2020) | Weather Notes at Sun Devil Stadium | PDF Game Book: UCLA 25, at ASU 18 (Dec. 5, 2020) | Boxscore

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It had been 371 days since the Arizona State football team last played at Sun Devil Stadium, and four weeks since it last played a down of football.

The world -- and football, too -- looks different than it did 371 days ago, but the Sun Devils' flair for the dramatic has hardly wavered.

In a return to football in Tempe, the Sun Devils (0-2, 0-2 Pac-12) traded blows with UCLA (3-2, 3-2) and erased what was once a 17-point deficit, but ultimately couldn't conjure up enough magic, falling to the Bruins, 25-18, in their first game since the season-opener on Nov. 7.

Jayden Daniels gave the Sun Devils their first lead of the night, an 18-17 advantage, with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when he scurried into the end zone from one-yard out. ASU failed to convert on the ensuing two-point conversion.

But the Bruins pulled ahead for good with 1:09 remaining after Demetric Felton punched in a two-yard score, wrestling back a lead from the Sun Devils after surrendering 18 unanswered points.

With two timeouts left, 1:09 remaining and trailing by seven, the Sun Devils began at their own 26-yard line. Daniels found both freshman Johnny Wilson and senior Frank Darby to march into Bruins' territory. 

 

After throwing one incomplete pass and giving up two sacks, backing the Sun Devils up near midfield, Daniels' last-ditch, Hail Mary effort on 4th & 19 was batted around in the end zone, falling incomplete to seal a Bruins' win.

But how the Sun Devils got to this juncture, ultimately playing for a win in the final seconds of the game, began to unfold early in the third quarter, when offensive coordinator Zak Hill reached into his playbook for some trickery.

In the early moments of the third quarter, after the Sun Devils forced the Bruins to punt on their opening drive, Daniels dropped back and fired a quick strike to Ricky Pearsall. He paused, then tossed the ball back across the field to Rachaad White. As Pearsall swung it back to White, so too did the pendulum back into ASU's favor.

White followed a convoy of Sun Devil blockers and scampered downfield deep into Bruins territory for 51 yards. Moments later, Daniels found Darby for a 10-yard score to cut the Bruins' lead to 17-10. The touchdown reception marked Darby's eighth in the last six games dating back to last season.

 

The deception proved to be a pivotal moment in the Sun Devils' comeback attempt, especially after a stagnant first half.

The Sun Devils' defense held the Bruins scoreless in the first quarter, slowing a unit out of the gates that entered the night as the second-highest scoring offense in the Pac-12.
 
But the Bruins drew first blood when Delon Hurt hauled in a nine-yard touchdown pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the second quarter. The Bruins added to their lead with a 44-yard field goal and then an 11-yard touchdown run by Thompson-Robinson in the waning seconds of the first half, jumping out to a 17-0 lead.

The Sun Devils got on the board before half courtesy of redshirt freshman kicker Jack Luckhurst, who drilled the first field goal of his career, a 49-yarder, as time expired at the end of the first half.

After the trickery to White, and the touchdown to Darby, the Sun Devils looked like they had their first lead of the night, as Daniels found Andre Johnson for what looked to be a 40-yard score, but it was negated by a penalty.

It was one several missed chances that plagued the Sun Devils. The next came minutes later, after Daniels drove the Sun Devils to the Bruins' one-yard line, but muffed the snap and the Bruins recovered on their own 3-yard line.

As became the theme of the night, the Sun Devils were quick to punch back. Defensive end Michael Matus brought pressure on quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, forcing him to make an errant throw in his own end zone. It resulted in an intentional grounding penalty and a Sun Devils' safety with 4:16 left in the third quarter.

Both teams traded late scores in the fourth quarter, with the Bruins having the final say.

Despite the loss, the Sun Devils managed to hold the Bruins, one of the conference's best rushing attacks, to 171 yards on the ground. They entered the night averaging 241.8 rushing yards per game. Felton, who had run for 100-plus in each of the past three games, was limited to just 41 yards on 10 carries.

Daniels ended the night completing 21-of-35 of his passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He connected with eight different receivers, four of which were freshmen.

True freshman Chip Trayanum dazzled on the ground, carrying the ball 15 times for 108 yards, the first 100-yard game in just his second career game.

The Sun Devils will wrap up the scheduled portion of their 2020 season next week when they head to Tucson for the annual Territorial Cup against the Arizona Wildcats on Dec. 11, with kickoff slated for 5 p.m. on ESPN.