In just one evening, the UCLA Bruins saw their championship hopes obliterated by a loss to Arizona State, 38-33. The loss not only eliminated them for the race to win the South Division, but clinched it for the Sun Devils. To make matters worse, the Bruins had to watch the ASU players celebrate their advance to the Pac-12 Championship game on the Bruins own field, a place the Bruins had not lost all year.
This game was as bipolar as the Pac-12 season itself. Arizona State dominated in the first half while the Bruins smacked around the Devils in the second. ASU could not be stopped as they were up 35-13 at the half. What happened then, UCLA roars back in the second half outscoring ASU, 20-3. A noble effort, but it is the total points at the end that counts, and what counts is ASU is 7-1 in conference play and will take on Stanford for a shot at the Rose Bowl. Oregon lost to Arizona in a shocker, which gave the North to the Cardinal.
The Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly picked apart the Bruin secondary in the first half. Although he had only one passing TD, he unloaded 225 yards through the air. ASU had no trouble getting the ball into the end zone, as was evident as they scored on their last two possessions of the first half. They even garnered a score on defense early in the second quarter as Sun Devil Carl Bradford picked off a telegraphed swing pass by Brett Hundley and took it 18 yards for the score.
As for Hundley, he had one of the toughest games in his Bruin career. More often than not, his legs got him out of trouble when his arm could not. Time after time, Hundley would hold on to the ball too long and try to scramble out of the situation, sometimes it worked really well and sometimes it was an epic failure. The Bruin QB ran the ball 17 times, but was sacked 9 times for a net yardage of five. Still, he did finish with 253 yards, 2 TDs and one interception.
That was just the start. Several things did not click for the Bruins as missed opportunities could have meant victory for them. Kicker Kaimi Fairbairn missed two field goals, the Bruins lost by five. A potential Brett Hundley connection to receiver Thomas Duarte was five yards too far, which would have put the Bruins up by one. What started a good final drive, put the Bruins at 1st and 30 after two consecutive holding calls. If dumb penalties did not get into the heads of the Bruin players before, then they now know that it cost them the Pac-12 South.
One of the more perplexing decisions in the game was the use of freshman sensation Myles Jack. He was primarily used on offense. It worked from time to time as the Sun Devils were able to quell his production, but it was baffling to keep him off the defense as he is an optimal contributor to a linebacking crew that involves Jordan Zumwalt, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. He did manage one touchdown on 96 yards.
Well, Bruin fans, it is over though. Not the season, but any chance for a championship. Head coach Jim Mora was close to achieving that in his first year, but in his second, the level of talent in the Pac-12 rose with his Bruins. UCLA is still 8-3 with one more game on the list (and most likely lower bowl bid). This is a very successful season and the Bruins should revel in that, going into the last game of the season, going into a bowl and even into next season. We saw the #BruinRevolution this year and you know what, it rolls on.
So the Bruins have to get back to practice and focus on the next game against the USC Trojans. There is no championship on the line, just bragging rights. UCLA just lost a chance for the Pac-12 South, which I am sure does not sit well with majority of the players. Look for a fired up Bruin squad to finish the season strong.