It was a record setting performance on Thursday night. Just not for the Arizona State Sun Devils, as they surrendered the most points in Sun Devil Stadium history. It was an overall disastrous night for Todd Graham and company, and here are my takeaways from Arizona State's 62-27 defeat.
1. The Arizona State defense is not ready just yet: After replacing nine starters from 2013, the Arizona State defense did enough to not cost the Sun Devils in any of their first three games. Some raised their eyebrows after Arizona State allowed 24 points to Colorado and 23 to New Mexico.
However, against UCLA, the wheels came off. The Sun Devils surrendered 580 yards of offense to the Bruins. That was not the story of the game, the story was the big, explosive plays that the Arizona State defense conceded to the UCLA. UCLA had four scores of over 80 yards on the night. Brett Hundley finished the contest 18/23 for 355 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns were 80-yard strikes, one to Jordan Payton and the other to Eldridge Massington.
There were too many missed tackles, too many missed assignments and too many mental errors. Yes, UCLA scored on a kick return and an interception return. However, Hundley was able to do whatever he wanted to do. Three receivers had over 80 yards and running back Paul Perkins tallied 137 yards on just 14 carries. This defense is talented, but they are also young and they got a rude awakening Thursday night.
2. Mike Bercovici is a steady backup in Taylor Kelly's absence: Yes there were times Bercovici threw behind receivers. Yes he committed three turnovers, but raise your hand if you thought Bercovici would play a perfect game. Anybody? Raise your hand if you thought he would throw the ball 68 times in his first start.
The fact is the defense and special teams did him no favors and no Arizona State running back finished with over 50 yards on the ground. D.J. Foster, carried the ball just nine times for 30 yards, an average of 3.3 per carry. He came into the game averaging over nine yards per carry.
So much of offense is timing, and with a backup quarterback it is hard to establish that timing. Couple that with the fact that the Sun Devils were one dimensional for the entire second half and Bercovici barely had a chance for success. However, it does not get any easier for Bercovici has the Sun Devils travel to play USC next Saturday.
3. The sky is not falling: Arizona State fans have a tendency to overreact after defeats. Considering how much emphasis was put into this game, some Sun Devil fans may believe that the season is over, when the fact is that is not the case.
People may point to the fact that the past two seasons the winner of the Arizona State/UCLA game has gone on to win the Pac-12 South. Consider in 2012 they played on Oct. 27 and in 2013 the two teams met on Nov. 23. The calendar has yet to hit October yet, there is a lot of the season left.
UCLA still has to play Oregon, Stanford, USC and Washington. Arizona State still has a chance to do damage in the South, with matchups against USC, Utah and Arizona looming.
4. One play changed the football game: On third down and 12 from the UCLA 17-yard line, Mike Bercovici threw a pass in the middle of the field that was intercepted by Ishmael Adams and returned 95 yards for a touchdown. That was at least a 10-point swing that went against the Sun Devils, assuming they at least get a field goal. After that play, the Sun Devils were outscored 35-10.
The first play from scrimmage in the third quarter resulted in an 80-yard touchdown for UCLA. Following a field goal from Arizona State, Ishmael Adams returned the kickoff 100 yards. The snowball just kept rolling against the Sun Devils, as they were fighting an uphill battle following that interception.
5. UCLA is not 35 points better than Arizona State: The scoreboard may say the Sun Devils lost by 35 points, but there is no way UCLA is five touchdowns better than the Sun Devils. Arizona State doubled UCLA in first downs and outgained the Bruins in total yards 626-580. Arizona State held the ball for about 10 minutes more than the Bruins.
However, like Todd Graham says, football games down to turnovers and mental mistakes. The Sun Devils also topped UCLA in both of those categories, with four turnovers and countless mental errors. If the two teams played again this season, UCLA may win, but not in the dominating fashion they did Thursday night.