The Pac-12 gauntlet doesn’t get any easier for the ASU football team, with a trip to Pasadena to take on the 6-3 UCLA Bruins on the horizon this Saturday.
Picking themselves off the mat after a 55-3 beatdown at Utah last week, the Sun Devils now get the Bruins, who have been up and down this season.
UCLA is 2-2 in their last four games, with losses to Oregon State and Arizona last week. The Sun Devils' final trip to the Rose Bowl is another sign that the final days of the Pac-12 are here.
“I know for some people that's going to be a really cool moment,” ASU head coach Kenny Dillingham said. “It’s a really iconic place, and it's the last time we’ll potentially play them on the road in their home, so this is definitely a significant game just for the history of ASU here. When looking back on everything, this is a significant game.”
A brutal schedule and massive injury issues have defined the difficult season for ASU. Dillingham highlighted the domino effect that’s occurred thanks to the injury woes on Monday.
“I think when it rains, it pours,” Dillingham said. “When you have so many guys (lost) at one position, now those other guys at that position are getting more work than they would normally have to or should by default, then that slowly wears on them, and unless you get people back, there's not really a solution to the problem unfortunately.”
UCLA’s big wins this season came against Washington State and Colorado, both of which came at home. The Bruins have yet to lose at the Rose Bowl in 2023, with their losses to Oregon State, Utah, and Arizona all coming on the road.
The Bruins are dealing with injury issues of their own, with quarterbacks Ethan Garbers and Dante Moore getting injured against the Wildcats last week. Both are practicing, but it is still unclear who will get the nod at quarterback for Saturday’s matchup.
ASU defensive coordinator Brian Ward praised the UCLA coaching staff earlier in the week.
“Their offensive staff, they have a great reputation,” Ward said. “We’re just focusing on the fundamentals this week. A lot of the things that broke down last week, just trying to clean those things up.”
Amid such a brutal schedule and injury issues, it can be challenging to keep grinding day in and day out, but Sun Devil players have kept their heads held high throughout the tough season.
“Obviously, it’s been a little hard,” freshman offensive lineman Sean Na’a said. “We’re just trusting each other every day, just trying to get one percent better like coach Kenny tries to tell us every day.”
The Sun Devils' final trip to the Rose Bowl will kick off at 7 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 network.
Edited by Alfred Smith III, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.