Recap Week 9… ASU: Heartbreaking Loss to UCLA

ASU (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12) lost in a heartbreaker to UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12): 45-43 in Tempe on Saturday.

A field goal as time expires can be the best way for a game to end, or the worst, depending on what team you’re rooting for.  In ASU’s case, it was the worst.  The loss to UCLA on Saturday drops ASU to 3-2 in conference play, and keeps them in a tie for second in the Pac-12 South standings.

So, the game: the Sun Devils played decently in the sense that they were able to keep UCLA’s lead small.  It was tied at the end of the first quarter, yet each subsequent quarter ended with UCLA in the lead (albeit a small one).  A touchdown in the final two minutes brought ASU into the lead (43-42) but the Bruins marched back down the field for Ka’imi Fairborn’s game winning field goal.

Both Cameron Marshall and DJ Foster had 55+ rushing yards, but they were outgamed by UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, who had 26 carries for a total of 164 rush yards.  Both quarterbacks threw four touchdowns, but Taylor Kelly’s 35 attempts made for a total of 315 passing yards (41 more than UCLA’s Brett Hundley).   But still no victory.  With the continued absence of Will Sutton, and another shoulder injury sustained by Junior Onyeali with 9 minutes left in the second quarter, ASU’s defense was missing two key players and, subsequently, fell short in being able to come down hard on UCLA’s offense.

The fan experience: Since the game started at 12 noon, tailgating started earlier too.  A charity walk also started early that morning, causing problems for people trying to get to the tailgate lots before 10:30.  That didn’t stop many, because the lots were full of people (some of whom were making awesome breakfast tailgate food).  Most fans were sitting in sun once they got to the stadium (the lower bowl on the south side, including the student section, was in sun for the entire game).  The sun was enough to make the temperature slightly uncomfortable, so there were some fans who bemoaned sitting in the sun for two hours to watch a game that ended how it did.

While the close loss was disheartening, it’s very much preferred to being trounced like we were in the Oregon game.  Todd Graham’s first year at ASU will be remembered by what happens in the next four games (specifically USC on November 10th), and fans are willing to be patient with the progress of the rest of the season.  The team has shown promise, but they’ve also shown weakness (especially with their defensive line).  Adjustments will be made, and we’ll see what happens on Saturday against Oregon State.  #Fearthefork