UCLA Bruin Football: 5 Takeaways from Upset Win over Arizona State Sun Devils
The UCLA Bruins upset the 19th ranked Arizona State Sun Devils, 29-28, in a manic game at the Rose Bowl that wasn't decided until the final play.
After a highly contentious final drive, ASU kicker Alex Garoutte missed a game-winning 46-yard field goal as time expired. Derrick Coleman had just retaken the lead for UCLA on the previous drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
In their biggest game so far in 2011, UCLA did just enough to win it. At times the Bruins were magical; at others, they were maddening. Predicted to be 14-point underdogs, the Sons of Westwood played up to their potential for the second straight week and won a share of the Pac-12 South lead.
There's plenty to talk about after this stunner, so let’s get to it.
UCLA Showed Its Best (and Worst) Side
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Despite the positive result, it was another mixed performance for UCLA against the Arizona State. For every long run or deep passing play they acheived, the Bruins seemed to shoot themselves in the foot with a costly mistake.
After an impressive first drive that ended in an 11-yard Johnanthan Franklin touchdown run, kicker Tyler Gonzalez missed the PAT.
After confidently moving down the field with a 23-21 lead early in the fourth quarter, Franklin fumbled the ball away. His gaffe was the first of four times the Bruins put the ball on the turf in the final quarter. ASU would eventually score to take a 28-23 advantage.
And then there were those final two drives to end regulation, one for each team.
UCLA’s journey downfield contained two fumbles, an offensive pass interference call, a 3rd-and-29, a one-yard Derrick Coleman TD run and a failed two-point conversion. At the end of it, UCLA found themselves up 29-28 with 49 seconds to go.
Arizona State’s answering drive was possibly more improbable. Starting from their own 24 with one timeout, QB Brock Osweiler missed two receivers before converting a third and 10 to Gerell Robinson. Robinson, as he was going down with the catch, threw the ball out-of-bounds in an effort to stop the clock.
That would have been a penalty for an illegal forward pass, but was reviewed and subsequently overturned as Robinson was ruled down before he tossed the ball. The result: no penalty, and ASU got the timeout back that they had used to prevent clock runoff.
The very next play, UCLA CB Aaron Hester was mysteriously called for pass interference on a pass that looked to be uncatchable. Now at the Bruin 41, Osweiler completed one more pass to bring their kicker within range.
The rest is history. Alex Garoutte missed low from 46, and the Bruins hung on to win after all that drama. It was Garoutte's third miss of the game.
At times, the Bruins played brilliantly. For the second straight week, the pistol offense worked well enough to give UCLA an identity offensively, something they’ve lacked for years. Kevin Prince’s 76-yard TD pass to open the second half was the longest scoring passing play for the program since 2007. He eclipsed it with a 33-yard completion on third and 29 (also to Nelson Rosario) during the final drive.
At other times, UCLA fans could only cringe as the team seemed to give the game away. The home side was penalized eight times for 75 yards, many of which came after big plays.
The Bruins emerged with an upset, but only just.
Another Solid Start from Kevin Prince
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The pistol offense has never looked better at UCLA, and a lot of that has to do with their quarterback, Kevin Prince.
Prince treated the UCLA faithful to another stellar performance against Arizona State, finally showing some aerial ability to complement his frenetic runs.
Prince finished with 119 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-19, but also ran for 61 yards. While it wasn’t his 163 rushing yards against Cal, Prince could have broken 100 had the Bruins not been penalized on a handful of his runs.
What impresses me most about Prince is the way he runs without fear. Maybe more than anyone on the Bruins roster, Prince understands the cost of injuries and how quickly they can happen. After missing significant time due to injury in all three seasons he’s appeared for UCLA, to watch Prince take hits and pop up off the turf is a welcome sight.
The fact that Prince’s back-up is an untested true freshman makes every hit a nail-biter, yet he takes them more often than sliding. Prince frequently turns upfield rather than immediately head for the sideline for extra yards at great risk to himself.
While Prince’s runs remain key to the Bruins' success offensively, his passing was perhaps the most encouraging point to take from the win. Prince showed marked improvement from a week ago, hitting more receivers than he missed, displaying good ball placement and saving UCLA’s final drive with an incredible 33-yard strike to Nelson Rosario.
Though there was improvement, Prince’s overthrow in the end-zone during the Bruins two-point conversion was troubling, a sign of how much work still needs to be done.
UCLA’s Defense Bent, but Did Not Break
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Going up against an Arizona State offense that averaged over 440 yards per game was never going to be an easy task, but the Bruin defense had shown signs that they were up to it.
UCLA’s defense played fantastically against Cal a week ago, forcing five turnovers and three sacks while giving up only 14 points. A repeat performance was needed against ASU, and though they didn’t quite get it, defensive coordinator Joe Tresey will take it.
The Bruins gave up 465 yards and 28 points to the Sun Devils, but came up with just enough stops to keep their offense in the game. ASU has been a very balanced offense in 2011 and continued to be at the Rose Bowl. QB Brock Osweiler went 22-of-38 for 264 yards and two touchdowns, while RB Cameron Marshall ran for 168 yards and a TD on 27 carries.
Little pressure was applied to Osweiler, but not for lack of trying. The Bruin front seven only sacked the ASU quarterback once, but did panic him into a few inaccurate throws. They did little to stop Marshall, who ran through enormous holes on several occasions.
What matters most is that they got the win. Remember, this defense is not 100 percent healthy, with injuries and suspensions still taking their toll. Young players like safety Tevin McDonald have stepped up, but they have done so recently at home. It remains to be seen if this defense can have consistent success on the road.
Derrick Coleman Should Be UCLA’s Starting RB
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After another outstanding performance, it’s time for Derrick Coleman to start at running back for UCLA.
Against Arizona State, Coleman ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, including the eventual game-winning score from one yard out. While he did fumble once, Coleman did so much damage consistently between the tackles that he kept getting touches.
Currently, Johnathan Franklin starts at running back for the Bruins, and I can understand Rick Neuheisel’s thinking here. Franklin is the more explosive of the two backs, and has breakaway speed in the open field that Coleman lacks. On a handful of long Coleman runs against ASU, I found myself admitting that Franklin would have scored rather than be taken down short of the end-zone.
The problem is that Franklin hasn’t been reliable on a down-by-down basis between the tackles. It’s great if he can get to the second level, but that’s become an increasingly rare occurrence. In short-yardage situations, Franklin has been poor, which is why Coleman almost always gets the call during them.
Neuheisel’s preference for Coleman in short-yardage opportunities is reflected in his stats. Through nine games, Coleman has carried 101 times for 542 yards and 11 touchdowns, five of which came in the last two games. By contrast, Franklin has 606 yards and four touchdowns on 109 carries. Who's this starter again?
With their touches essentially equal, it’s time to give Coleman the respect he’s earned and start him at running back. We will continue to see the two backs in tandem, but Coleman has put up first-choice numbers and should be treated as such.
Win Puts UCLA in Lead for Pac-12 South
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At 5-4 overall and 4-2 in Pac-12 play, UCLA finds itself tied for first place in the South with USC and Arizona State.
As the Trojans are ineligible for postseason play, this effectively puts UCLA at the top of the Pac-12 South and in control of their own destiny. With the win over California, the Bruins took away the need to beat the Sun Devils and Trojans yet still make a bowl game, but beating ASU allows them to dream bigger.
Only their final three games against Utah, Colorado and USC remain on the schedule. While most will argue that SC is the biggest match by far, don’t overlook the importance of the Salt Lake City showdown. Bruin fans will remember what happened the last time UCLA was favored to beat the Utes on the road, and after an emotional win over Arizona State, a letdown could be in the cards.
Utah has been building momentum as of late, notching their first two conference wins over Oregon State and Arizona in their last two games. Their defense looked impressive against a Wildcat offense that seemed unstoppable against the Bruins. Of their two winnable games in the next two weeks, Utah will be the most difficult.
Colorado will be a different story. UCLA gets a Buffaloes side in Pasadena that has yet to win a Pac-12 contest. Most recently, USC waltzed into Boulder and rocked the home team 42-17, with SC QB Matt Barkley tossing a school-record six touchdowns. The Buffalo defense is a mess, and they should still be searching for a conference win come Nov. 19.
The USC game is always huge and will be again this year. The Trojans seem to get better week after week, but will not see the payoff in a bowl this year. Anything can happen in a rivalry match, but if UCLA can take care of business against Utah and Colorado, they will not need to beat SC for a bowl berth.
A 7-5 finish to the regular season and a trip to a decent bowl is a very real possibility for UCLA after beating Arizona State. Fans will of course want the Rose Bowl, but should be pleased with the winning season their team is on track for.