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ASU Football: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly vs. UCLA

Even a bowl-clinching victory and a record-breaking performance couldn’t cover up the Devils’ mistakes.

Andrew Palla/House of Sparky

What were your expectations heading into the 2018 ASU football season? If it was below six wins, your expectations have been exceeded.

The Devils clinched their first bowl game of the Herm Edwards era, and it was by every standard an exciting, pulse-pounding game. But no victory is without its mistakes.

The Good

This offense continues to stay hot, putting forth another 30-point effort in their 31-28 victory over UCLA Saturday. In the performance, no one shined brighter than Eno Benjamin.

Benjamin pieced together 195 yards from scrimmage and scored his 12th rushing TD of the season. For a back who has scored on some long runs, Benjamin only scored on a simple one-yard draw.

Did I mention that Benjamin set the single-season rushing yards record for ASU since joining the Pac-10/Pac-12? He now has 1,295 yards and there are two - maybe three - regular season games remaining.

His performance caught offensive coordinator Rob Likens by surprise.

“Didn’t know that, okay that happened today? That’s awesome. That’s great,” Likens said. “I just knew, you keep giving the ball to Eno and you just know it’s coming. It’s coming. Sooner or later he’s popping one and then it’s gonna roll.”

Benjamin additionally has two more years - should he wish - of football left at ASU. Certainly he is a key piece of the offense’s future.

The Bad

Based on their performance on both ends, the special teams didn’t put forth their best effort today.

Lets immediately excuse Brandon Ruiz. Aside from a rare missed field goal, he did his job.

Michael Sleep-Dalton on the other hand did not have the best punts in terms of placement and distance.

All three of his punts went as touchbacks allowing the Bruins decent field position to start their drives. His first punt could have been pinned within the five-yard line, but poor coverage on the far end of the field allow the ball to cross the plane.

The return team on UCLA punts were also unable to move the ball as all of UCLA’s punts went as touchbacks as well.

The Ugly

With how well the offense was playing, it is an absolute shame that ASU’s defense cannot keep their opponents’ margin larger. Especially given what the conference is this season.

The best moment of the game defensively was the ending, but UCLA quarterback Wilton Speight attributed their struggles to the crowd noise; not pressure or good coverage.

Defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales kept the commentary simple to start his analysis.

“We won, Gonzales said. “The days of giving up 439 yards are going to put me in a grave. It drives me crazy.”

There was 335 passing yards allowed, and wide receiver Caleb Wilson hauled in 164 and two touchdowns. Yikes.

The front six had moments of pressuring Speight including Merlin Robertson and Tyler Johnson, but Robertson’s ejection opened up several opportunities for the Bruins and they took advantage.

Now, after three straight day games, the Devils will face the dark in the Pacific Northwest against the Oregon Ducks.