Junior running back Cam Skattebo passed for a touchdown and ran for another touchdown to lift the Sun Devils to an upset win against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., in their final matchup as part of the Pac-12 conference.
Skattebo's rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter extended the lead to 17-7, and the defense again shut down the UCLA offense and forced their fourth turnover on downs of the night.
Despite the Bruins accumulating 300 yards of total offense, the Sun Devil defense held them to single digits on the scoreboard and only needed 250 yards and three different quarterbacks, Trenton Bourguet, redshirt junior tight end Jalin Conyers, and Skattebo to establish their win. Conyers, technically ASU's starting quarterback, completed two passes while Skattebo completed one for a touchdown.
Bourguet threw for 149 yards with an interception, and Skattebo rushed for 61 yards with a touchdown.
"Right now, this was the best chance for us to win the football game, and it's my job to put our guys in the best chance to win the football game, whether it's unique or crazy or weird, that doesn't matter to me," head coach Kenny Dillingham said.
Skattebo ended a lengthy stalemate in the third quarter when he threw a 25-yard touchdown across the middle of the field to redshirt junior Elijhah Badger. The score capped off a 99-yard drive that lasted more than seven minutes, extending the Sun Devils lead to 10 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
"I wouldn't say our play was unorthodox to us," Skattebo said. "We ran this all week, and we perfected it as much as we could in five days. Some guys probably thought it was silly that we were doing that all week, but is it silly now?"
Dillingham said he was confident in Skattebo's passing ability throughout practice this week and trusted Conyers' ability because of his growth throughout the season.
"He's a dynamic person, he can do both," Badger said. "I just needed (Skattebo) to roll out, laser the ball, and however he got it there, he got it there."
Badger finished the game with 12 receptions and 116 yards on top of that touchdown.
In the first half, the ASU defense stood up the UCLA offense three times in their territory. Halfway through the second quarter, the Sun Devils stopped the Bruins on the one-yard line to force a turnover on downs. The defense also sacked UCLA quarterback Collin Schlee twice in the first half, both times on third down, to force the Bruins to punt the ball.
Graduate student kicker Dario Longhetto's 29-yard field goal was the only scoring for both teams in the first half, with ASU holding a 3-0 lead going into halftime in front of the Rose Bowl crowd of over 56,000 fans.
The ASU defense continued to halt any momentum that the Bruins offense could muster, forcing a third turnover on downs at the beginning of the fourth quarter to keep UCLA scoreless. The Sun Devils then proceeded to pull more rabbits out of the hat when they burned more than a minute of the game clock with a delay of game penalties and three false starts.
Dillingham said the defense played well "in the moments" and that games are won in important moments, like fourth downs on both sides of the ball. Dillingham said the defense's success came down to a good plan and the play of graduate student defensive lineman Deshaun Mallory, who had nine tackles and a half sack.
The Bruins would remain without a point until five minutes into the fourth quarter, when Schlee found senior wide receiver Logan Loya in the endzone on a 16-yard pass to cut ASU's lead to three. The momentum had shifted, but the Sun Devils responded with a lengthy 75-yard drive, capped off with Skattebo's lead-extending rushing touchdown.
Dillingham said this victory helped strengthen team culture and highlighted the importance of responding to adversity. Last week, the Sun Devils lost 55-3 in Salt Lake City.
"They went out there and executed. They worked hard on defense. We battled, we competed, we won the moments, we responded to a butt-whooping the other day," Dillingham said. "And that's what culture is: response, response, response."
ASU improves to 3-7 and earns their second conference win. UCLA falls to 6-4 on the season. The Sun Devils return to Mountain America Stadium next Saturday to take on No. 6 Oregon.
Edited by Sadie Buggle and Walker Smith
Vincent Deangelis is a full-time reporter for the sports department at The State Press. He has previously worked for Arizona PBS and AZPreps365.com.
Shane Brennan is the Editor-in-Chief at The State Press. He was a sports and politics reporter, before becoming the editor of the politics desk. He has covered local and state politics for the Arizona Capitol Times and Cronkite News.