Sun Devils down Bruins, Win Pac-12 South

PASADENA, Calif. – Despite only scoring three points in the second half, No. 17 Arizona State held on late to beat No. 14 UCLA 38-33 to clinch the Pac-12 South title in Pasadena.

The Bruins (8-3, 5-3) rallied from a 22-point deficit at half to within five points in the fourth quarter and a chance to win the game on their last drive. After a converted fourth down pass from Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley, UCLA had the ball on the ASU 45 yard line and looked like they were driving to win the game.

However, two straight holding penalties backed the Bruins to their own 35, and they couldn't recover. On fourth down, Hundley completed a pass short of the marker and pandemonium broke out in the Rose Bowl once Chris Young made the final tackle.

Once Taylor Kelly kneeled, the celebration began.

"I've cried twice, and I'm not much of a crier," Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said. "I had tears coming down my face because it's not just about winning the Pac-12 South, it's to watch these kids on that field lay it on the line with that kind of heart was just overwhelming for me.

"Things didn't go how we planned, give UCLA credit, but to come on the road and win the way we did is a huge step for our program. It was really gratifying to walk into that room and look those seniors in the eye, it's been a quick journey these last two years and I'm just really proud of them for buying in, these guys are winners.

"That was the most impressive display of heart from a football team that I've ever seen. We're not done, obviously we have two more steps to be where we want to be, the Pac-12 Champions."

In just his second year as the head coach, Graham has transformed the Arizona State program, and has achieved one of the goals he set for the team back in August, winning the Pac-12 South.

"I think back to a year and a half ago when I came here I got my head kicked in…I'm pretty glad I came," Graham said.

The Sun Devils (9-2, 7-1) won the toss, elected to receive and for the seventh time this season, marched down on their first drive of the game and scored.

On the ensuing drive after a 58-yard kickoff return from UCLA's Ishmael Adams – he had 185 yards returning tonight on just five opportunities – Hundley took their first snap of the game and threw a bomb down the seam to a streaking Devin Lucien for a touchdown.

And after a Bruin field goal late in the first quarter, it was all Sun Devils from there in the first half.

To start the second quarter, Carl Bradford jumped a swing pass from Hundley and took it to pay dirt to extend the Sun Devils' lead to 21-10 and really shift the momentum in their favor. With that interception, the Devils have forced a turnover in 25 consecutive games (24 under Graham).

The Devils went on to score 14 more points in the quarter, including a last-second touchdown pass from Kelly to Jaelen Strong that extended the lead to 22 going into the locker room. The game looked to be out of reach at that point.

But the Bruins came out in the second half on fire and scored on their first possession in the third quarter with a 10-play 79-yard drive capped by a Myles Jack three-yard run.

On the ensuing drive, the Devils were forced to punt. Originally, Alex Garoutte punted and the Ishmael Adams returned it to the Bruins 35 yard line; but there was a penalty on the Bruins for two players wearing the same number on the field. Graham chose to kick again and Garoutte never got a shot, the snap was low and UCLA took over deep in ASU territory.

With a Paul Perkins one-yard touchdown, the Bruins had rallied and were very much back in the game.

Coach Graham had talked all week that the Sun Devils would face adversity in this game, and only being up five with 11 minutes to go is just that, an adverse situation.

The Arizona State defense has played outstanding since the Notre Dame game back in early October, and late in this game, it was much of the same.

UCLA had the ball inside ASU's 10 yard line after a dominant drive to that point and was on the verge of scoring the go-ahead touchdown with just under five minutes left in the game, but Chris Young, with perhaps the play of the game sacked Hundley on third down to force the Bruins to kick a field goal – and Kaim Fairbairn missed from 37 yards out.

"(That drive) was nerve-racking, we knew that we had to make a big stop," Young said. "Coming down to the end, every play is important. That sack just snowballed everybody else to make their plays too (for the rest of the game).

"That game was draining, emotionally, physically, you name it. Just being able to come out on top was a great feeling."

The Sun Devils have been on the short end of the stick against UCLA the last two years, losing late in both of those games. Where those teams in the past might have folded in an environment like the Rose Bowl with such large implications in play, quarterback Taylor Kelly knew this team was different.

"That's the different part about our team this year," Kelly said of his team's poise. "Once things hit with adversity, we keep our poise. Our coaches do a great job of keeping adverse situations in practice and preparing us for these games."

With an Oregon loss to Arizona earlier on in the day, Arizona State will just have to beat Arizona next week to host the Pac-12 Championship game on Dec. 7th in Tempe.

"Very interesting," Graham said. "We talked about that at the very beginning of the year and we sat down in the team room and I'd have them close their eyes and visualize. We visualized what it would be like to walk out of Sun Devil Stadium hosting the Pac-12 Championship.

"Obviously, the most important game of the year is next week though. It doesn't matter what we've done up to this point. We lose this one, it's an unsuccessful season."

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