When redshirt senior Taylor Kelly left the field in Colorado, the spotlight turned to Mike Bercovici.
The redshirt junior quarterback had never started a game at the college level, and looking only at his stats, it would appear that the Sun Devils had a good night. Bercovici finished the night 42-of-68 for 488 yards and three touchdowns.
"I thought Mike did a lot of great things tonight," head coach Todd Graham said. "For his first game, facing that kind of adversity, I'm really proud of him."
Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, he also had two interceptions and a fumble.
In fairness to Bercovici, in one of the interceptions he was a victim of some tough luck. He saw redshirt junior wide receiver Jaelen Strong in a one-on-one deep down the field and took a shot. UCLA's redshirt senior safety Anthony Jefferson seemingly didn't even see the pass, yet yanked it out of Strong's out for the pick.
The second one was tougher to defend. In a 3rd-and-12 situation from the UCLA 17-yard line, Bercovici surveyed the field and through over the middle. He misfired, and it landed in the arms of UCLA junior cornerback Ishmael Adams at the 5-yard line. He saw a hole, and returned the interception 95 yards for the score with two seconds remaining in the half.
"Unacceptable on my behalf, 100 percent credit on me" Bercovici said. "It's a learning experience and I'll never do it again."
At the time, Arizona State trailed 20-17, well within the range of sophomore kicker Zane Gonzalez, who made a career-long 49-yarder earlier in the game. Had the interception not happened and Gonzalez kicked the field goal, it would have been a tie game entering the half.
Bercovici also fumbled in the third quarter on a sack by sophomore linebacker Deon Hollins. It was his third turnover of the night, the fourth by the team.
"Obviously there's lots of things he can improve, the biggest thing being the turnovers that really, really hurt us," Graham said. "He made some mistakes and he came back from them. Obviously you can't make those mistakes and win games like that."
In Bercovici's first start, he set Sun Devil records for pass attempts (68) and completions (42). He had a couple perfect passes, including a 25-yard dart to Strong between defenders in the first quarter in an eventual touchdown drive and his 29-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wideout Cameron Smith into double coverage in the second quarter was a thing of beauty.
There were good takeaways from his performance, yet Bercovici didn't see it that way.
"At the end of the day, it's what the score is, and we weren't one point ahead or more," Bercovici said. "Either way, positives are wins to me."
It looks like Bercovici will get at least one more week to find that positive he's seeking. With Kelly's foot injury, he is not expected to play next Saturday at USC.
Graham said he is confident Saturday's loss won't affect Bercovici, and won't be worried when Arizona State travels to face the Trojans.
"How's Mike Bercovici going to respond? He's going to respond with great character," Graham said. "His first start, it will make him better in the long run.
"I think he'll respond like he always does: like a champion."