TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) —
UCLA dominated the first half, sputtered for most of the second and engineered a late drive to win.
Finally, after three seasons, the Bruins are above .500 for the first time under coach Chip Kelly.
Demetric Felton scored on a 2-yard run with 1:09 left and UCLA rallied after struggling for most of the second half to beat Arizona State 25-18 Saturday night.
“It feels amazing,” UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said. “I think the whole UCLA community has been waiting for this.”
The Bruins (3-2) dominated early to go up 17-0, labored as the Sun Devils (0-2) surged into the lead, then came to life at just the right time.
Thompson-Robinson accounted for two touchdowns and was sharp while engineering the final drive after missing two games due to COVID-19 contact tracing. UCLA moved 75 yards in 11 plays on the drive, capped when Felton tried to stop at the 1 but was pushed in by the Sun Devils.
Arizona State still had a little time left, but Quentin Lake broke up a desperation heave to give the Bruins a winning record for the first time since midway through the 2017 season.
“It feels like we’re headed in the right direction and we’re capable of being a real special team,” said UCLA linebacker Caleb Johnson, who had 10 tackles and two sacks.
Jayden Daniels accounted for two touchdowns — the second a 1-yard run with 4 1/2 minutes left — and Tyler Johnson had three sacks for the Sun Devils in their first game in a month to COVID-19 issues. Arizona State’s defense dominated most of the second half, but the offense turned it over twice inside UCLA’s red zone in the second half.
The Sun Devils are 0-2 for the first time since 1998, with both losses coming in the final two minutes.
“We had an opportunity to close it out and we just couldn’t do it,” Sun Devils coach Herm Edwards said. “It’s a shame because we did some things that were pretty good.”
Arizona State opened the season in disheartening fashion, allowing two touchdowns in the final three minutes of a 28-27 loss to Southern California.
Then the Sun Devils got stuck in COVID-19 limbo.
Their Nov. 14 game against California was canceled after several players and coaches, including Edwards, tested positive. The next two games, against Colorado and Utah, also were shelved due to contact tracing issues.
The Bruins played three games in that span, so they were midseason form while the Sun Devils almost had to start over.
And that’s the way it looked in the first half.
Thompson-Robinson repeatedly picked his way through Arizona State’s defense with his arm and legs, helping the Bruins build a 17-3 halftime lead. He hit Delon Hurt on a 9-yard touchdown and scored himself on an 11-yard run just before halftime.
Arizona State’s offense was limited to 147 total yards in the first half.
“We were rusty as a football and I had a sense that would have with not playing in a month, just the speed of the game, ” Edwards said.
Arizona State’s offense came to life in the second, thanks to a trick play.
It happened on the opening drive, when Ricky Pearsall caught a backward pass and threw it back across the field to Rachaad White, who turned it into a 51-yard gain. Daniels then found Frank Darby on a 10-yard touchdown.
Arizona State’s defense snapped to in the second half as well.
The Sun Devils bottled up Thompson-Robinson and forced him into an intentional-grounding penalty for a safety — right after Arizona State lost a fumbled snap at UCLA’s 1-yard line.
Daniels threw an interception in the end zone, his first in 203 straight attempts, but scored on a 1-yard run to put Arizona State up 18-17.
It wasn’t enough.
Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins marched down the field for Felton’s touchdown and sent the Sun Devils to their second straight last-minute defeat.
UCLA turned what would have been an ugly loss into victory with a huge drive in the final minutes.
Arizona State looked dominant after needing a half to shake off the rust, but the defense couldn’t hold once Thompson-Robinson got the Bruins going late.
ARIZONA STATE PENALTIES
The Sun Devils were hurt by penalties, which isn’t much of a surprise after such a long layoff.
Arizona State was penalized 12 times for 83 yards, including three for having an ineligible man down field. One wiped out a 5-yard touchdown pass from Daniels to Johnny Wilson.
“We were very sloppy and that’s not good football with the fouls,” Edwards said.
UCLA hosts rival USC next Saturday.
Arizona State plays at rival Arizona Friday.
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