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ASU Football: Run defense implodes, Sun Devils cannot keep up in 50-36 loss to No. 12 UCLA

Ran out of the building: most rushing yards allowed since 2018 vs SDSU

Zach BonDurant, House of Sparky

TEMPE - It took an all-time rushing performance by UCLA (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) to take down ASU (3-6, 2-4 Pac-12) in Tempe, 50-36.

If you were at Sun Devil Stadium for the Ohana Weekend matchup between ASU and UCLA, you were probably feeling yourself after 15 minutes of play.

Off with a bang

We’re not sure nobody expected Chris Edmonds to intercept Dorian Thompson-Robinson, aka DTR, on the first play from scrimmage, but Sun Devil fans erupted when he did. A couple of positive plays and a field goal later, ASU put a quick 3-point lead on the board – and confidence into the minds of the near-capacity crowd.

“That crowd was rocking – super electrifying,” Trenton Bourguet said.

But three points is never enough to keep up with Chip Kelly.

Kelly’s Bruins immediately responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 14-yard DTR scramble. With the surprising absence of their star running back, Zach Charbonnet, it was on the quarterback to move the offense.

Trenton Bourguet had a rebuttal of his own for the UCLA defense, driving down the field in 12 plays and finding Messiah Swinson in the endzone to regain the lead at 10-7. At that point, it looked like we were in for a back-and-forth family affair.

The crowd was into it, the offense was effective and the idea of an upset seemed real.

An hour later, that was not the case. After that touchdown, the Sun Devils would go scoreless the rest of the half while UCLA scored two unanswered touchdowns.

Bruins hit another gear

The second quarter started slow for both sides, but ended up as a track meet for the Bruins offense. A combination of DTR, Kazmeir Allen, and backup running back Keegan Jones dissected the Sun Devil defense for almost 100 rushing yards and a touchdown. DTR continued to cook with 82 yards through the air as well as a 43-yard run where he casually hurdled a defender in the secondary.

A Keegan Jones rushing touchdown put a cap on a five play, 91-yard drive that took all those thoughts of storming the field out of the realm of possibility. After another ASU punt, the Bruins scored with just over 30 seconds left in the half to go up 28-10. UCLA had 181 total yards in the second quarter, compared to ASU’s 49 yards. For context, the Sun Devils had 119 yards in the quarter prior.

“I take all the blame for not preparing us defensively and offensively,” coach Aguano said.

The clock hit triple-zeros on the half, but the atmosphere made it seem like the game was over right there.

Fans and families that packed the stands for a beautiful Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium started to trickle out, and the Bruins blue started to stand out in the crowd.

The Sun Devils started the second half off with a quick three-and-out, followed promptly by a 10 play, 75 yard drive where DTR found the endzone for the second time, putting UCLA up by 25 points.

The Bruins scored 28 unanswered points after ASU took that 10-7 lead in the opening minutes of the game.

“I thought they did a great job of bringing pressure and trying to get me off my game. They got some good licks on me,” Bourguet said.

The comeback?

The next scoring drive for the Sun Devils would come on the back of Elijhah Badger making a spectacular one-handed grab in the back of the endzone that gave the crowd something to cheer about.

How did UCLA respond, you ask? How about a 75-yard rushing touchdown for Keegan Allen on the first play. If that isn’t the textbook definition of immediate retaliation, what is?

As time waned off the clock and UCLA fans grew louder and prouder, it was clear that the No. 12 Bruins were on their way to another victory. Even with some fight from the Sun Devils offense scoring three second half touchdowns and some chirping by both teams, the game was essentially over in the 3rd quarter.

X Valladay ran for two touchdowns in the second half to make it a one score game, but the deficit the defense put them in wasn’t enough to overcome UCLA with a late touchdown and interception that sealed this game shut.

The clear and obvious difference in this one was the running attack for both sides.

UCLA put up an absolute dominant performance on the ground, rushing for over 400 yards when it was all said and done. ASU put up some numbers towards the end of the game, but when your opponent goes for nearly 300 more yards than you in any category, it’s bound to be trouble.

“We pride ourselves on being fit, fast and physical. So, we just can’t let that happen,” Chris Edmonds said.

“It’s not on them, it’s on me and I want to make sure that everyone understands that,” Aguano said.

Three different UCLA rushers went for 95-plus yards, which helped them control the clock and keep the Sun Devil offense sidelined.

“We’ll get it fixed,” he added.

DTR had himself quite the game, finishing up with 167 yards and two touchdown passes while rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown. Trenton Bourguet came out hot, disappeared in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, and ended up with nearly 350 yards and two passing touchdowns in the effort to make a comeback.

ASU went five straight drives without a score in the 2nd and 3rd, which was ultimately what held them back in this one.

The Sun Devils will have to win out in order to qualify for a bowl game. With Washington State next week and Oregon State after that, it’s going to be difficult for ASU to get the opportunity to play into December. As of now, it doesn’t look good.

“We’re going to play until we can’t play any more,” Aguano said.