A handful of mistakes cost ASU football a win against UCLA

The Sun Devils' loss to the Bruins was decided by more than an early interception

It was a rather forgettable trip to California for ASU football as the Sun Devils (5-5, 4-3 Pac-12) put together a night of ugly first-timers in their 44-37 loss to the UCLA Bruins (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12).

The iron line

For the first time all year ASU was unable to sack the quarterback. 

Junior quarterback Josh Rosen sat comfortably in the pocket, dropping precise darts to his wide receivers all night. 

In his first game back from a concussion, Rosen not only delivered a 300-yard performance, but his pocket presence was on full display. 

“They did a good job of getting the ball out quick and they did a lot of max protections. Take nothing away from what they did. Everything we’d seen, we went over this week,” senior defensive lineman Tashon Smallwood said after Saturday’s loss. “Coaches did a great job of preparing us — as a defense, man, we just didn’t execute.”

Graphic published on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. 

ASU’s defensive front had trouble finding a clear lane to Rosen as the Bruins’ offensive line seemed to keep extra personnel on the line or in the backfield to pick up defenders busting through. 

While the defense did its part in containing UCLA’s run game, it was less than impressive to watch the Sun Devils chase Rosen, leaving the secondary at the mercy of a future NFL quarterback

On the cusp of 100

Even with UCLA’s offense bringing down the ASU defense with chunk plays through the air, the Sun Devils' offense had their chances — they had 98 to be exact.

Redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins and company had 98 offensive plays on the night, and managed to score 37 points. However, ASU’s special teams were responsible for a touchdown and three field goals. 

The offense only tallied 21 points (including extra points) on nearly 100 plays. 

"We had every opportunity to remain in the lead and extend the lead but we didn’t get it done tonight,” sophomore wide receiver N’Keal Harry said after Saturday’s loss.

A heavy dose of senior running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage ran for a combined 222 rushing yards, but it wasn’t necessarily the run game that stalled.

It seemed as if an untimely miscue paired with an unlikely play call favored the Bruins time after time.

Time is up

Since the loss to the Bruins, ASU is averaging nearly 33 minutes of time of possession per game.

Over the weekend, the Sun Devils held possession for 36:08 — the longest time of possession in a loss all year.

Wilkins and the offense weren't left without chances to close out the game early. In total, the offense had 36 minutes and 98 plays (61 rushes, 37 passes) to beat the Bruins. 

By the numbers, the offense’s three touchdowns means ASU scored on two percent of its throws and three percent of its runs. 

This team has said “champions are made in November” all month long. Sitting here at 1-1, the Sun Devils have had both positive and negative first-time occurrences. 

“We gotta get things corrected — we gotta get better. We gotta have a great week of practice and for these seniors, we need to go get bowl eligible," head coach Todd Graham said during his Monday press conference. "We have two games left in the regular season and the next one is the most important.”

This Saturday in Corvallis, Oregon, fans will know how the rest of the year will turn out. They’ll either see a team committed to squashing its opponent via a dynamic offense and firm defense, or they’ll see an offense capable of only three touchdowns in 36 minutes alongside a defense that is not on the same page.

Reach the reporter at atotri@asu.edu or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.   

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