Defense Dominated as Bruins Roll Devils

All week leading up to Arizona State’s home match-up with division rival UCLA, the focus centered on junior Mike Bercovici and replacing injured starting quarterback Taylor Kelly. Oddly, it wasn’t the offense that struggled on Thursday night as Brett Hundley and the Bruins torched the Sun Devil defense in record-setting fashion, upending ASU 62-27.

The chants of “U-C-L-A” from the Bruin faithful that echoed throughout Sun Devil Stadium as the final seconds ticked down told the story. Surely there’s been less impressive performances in Arizona State’s (3-1, Pac-12 1-1) history, but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with one without really thinking about it as UCLA (4-0, 1-0) dominated the Sun Devils in convincing fashion for a 62-27 win.

The 62 points were not only the most given up by the Sun Devils under Head Coach Todd Graham, but also the most ever given up at home by Arizona State.

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, who starred at Chandler High School, put on a yet another show in his latest return to the Valley, completing 18-23 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns in the win.

The dual-threat quarterback tormented the Sun Devil all night, rushing for an additional 77 yards and one rushing touchdown as he paced the Bruin offensive attack.

“Things didn't go our way in a lot of aspects of the game,” said ASU safety Jordan Simone. “We just have to get back in practice. UCLA did a good job. Brett did some good things getting out of the pocket. We have to give him all the credit.”

However Hundley wasn’t alone on Thursday. Running back Paul Perkins gashed the Arizona State defense for 137 yards on just 14 carries while wide receiver Jordan Payton caught five passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

“UCLA just did a lot of good things,’ said Simone. “They played better than us tonight. We have some things that we have to clean up. We have to tackle better obviously, and we'll get that corrected. We just got to get back to doing what we do.”

Things started out well for the Sun Devils as Bercovici led the offense down the field on the game’s opening series which resulted in a 49 yard Zane Gonzalez field goal, a career long for the sophomore, to put Arizona State ahead.

After the Bruins responded with a field goal of their own, Bercovici connected with tight end Kody Kohl on a five yard touchdown pass, just the second of his career.

ASU extended its lead to 11 when Bercovici spotted an open Cameron Smith for a 29 yard touchdown in the opening minutes of the second quarter to make the score 17-6, but the Sun Devil momentum came to an abrupt end shortly thereafter.

Hundley hit a streaking Eldridge Massington for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the ensuing UCLA drive to pull the Bruins back within four, opening the offensive floodgates for the visitors.

After a Bercovici interception, Hundley hooked up with Nate Iese on a three yard touchdown putting the Bruins on top 20-17.

With the half coming to an end, the Sun Devils stormed down the field looking to score once more before the break, but Ismael Adams intercepted another Bercovici pass, returning it 95 yards for UCLA’s fourth defensive touchdown of the year with just two seconds remaining in the half.

“Absolutely unacceptable on my behalf,” said Bercovici of the interception. “One-hundred percent on me. I got to understand the situation. We have three points there. We got a great field goal kicker. We can’t put the ball in jeopardy. It’s a learning experience. I’ll never do it again.”

Hundley opened the second half with an 80 yard touchdown pass to Payton and the rout was on for the Bruins.

After another Gonzalez field goal, this time from 24 yards out, Ismael Adams returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, putting UCLA 48-20.

Adams’ scores were just two of five plays of 80 or more for the Bruins on Thursday as UCLA amassed 580 yards of offense against the vulnerable Arizona Stat defense and 715 yards on kickoff returns.

“We just made some simple mistakes that cost us big time,” said Simone. “Mental errors are critical errors and stuff that we can't have. We just have to get back to playing Sun Devil defense, playing smart and playing with character and class.”

Bercovici third to keep the Sun Devils close, completing 42-69 passes for 488 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start. Both his pass attempts and completions were both records school records and his 488 passing yards were the most for a Sun Devil quarterback in their first career start.

“At the end of the day, it’s what the score is and we weren’t one point ahead or more,” said Bercovici. “It’s disappointing and obviously I take a lot of (responsibility) turning the ball over, something we don’t do here at school. It was learning experience and moving on forward to next week, it won’t happen again. Either way, positives are wins to me.”

Arizona State will look to re-group before facing USC next Saturday on the road.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories