Roller Coaster Win in the Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif. - The Sun Devils' 24-20 win over the Bruins won't win any style points. However, when you break an 11-year jinx in the Rose Bowl, maybe that streak breaking victory isn't likely to be easy on the eyes. What will look pretty is another Pac-10 win for Arizona State, as they march on and continue to show their resiliency with a win over UCLA.

Another game, another slow start for Arizona State (9-1, 6-1 Pac-0). Nonetheless, Head Coach Dennis Erickson refuted any suggestions that his squad was suffering from a letdown of sorts after their loss in Oregon last week. He gave full credit to UCLA (5-5, 4-3) for their strong showing in the first half.

"I knew going into the game…they had good players," said Erickson. "Karl (UCLA Head Coach Karl Dorrell) does a great job defensively. They have had some injuries, but they have a good football team and came ready to play…We had some opportunities. Obviously we played better in the second half, and did some good things."

Arizona State struggled offensively with a trio of ‘three-and-outs', and UCLA took advantage and jumped to a 10-0 lead. Their first quarter touchdown was set up by one of a couple of ASU special teams' gaffs – a 68-yard punt return all the way to the Devils' one-yard line.

A 9-yard touchdown reception by Kyle Williams in the middle of the second half gave the visitors some momentum. The defense yielded a field goal, which was aided by a special teams penalty (unsportsmanlike like conduct) by ASU's Jovon Williams. Luckily for the visitors, UCLA came up with it own careless infraction – a roughing the passer penalty on Rudy Carpenter heaving the proverbial Hail Mary pass as time expired in the first half. Since the first or second half of a game cannot end on a defensive penalty, the Sun Devils' Thomas Weber got a chance to drill a 53-yard field goal with 0:00 showing on the clock.

Starting the third quarter trailing just 13-10 and with possession of the ball, it was assumed that the maroon and gold would continue to ride the wave and claim the lead. Well, the second possession of the third stanza took care of that as Dimitri Nance eluded a few defenders en route to an 11-yard score and a 17-13 Sun Devil edge. The ASU defense continued to clamp down on UCLA, and in the Devils' ensuing possession Keegan Herring had one of his signature electrifying 70-plus yard touchdown run (71 to be exact today), and the maroon and gold were seemingly in the control extending their lead to 24-13.

While the UCLA offense continued to be helpless against ASU's defense, their special teams proceeded to wreak havoc. The Bruins' Matthew Slater returned the ASU kickoff 89 yards for a score, and suddenly we had a ball game. Ultimately, those were the last points scored on this Saturday afternoon.

A Herring fumble on the UCLA 5-yard line, wasn't capitalized by the Bruins. In the fourth quarter, the hosts fumbled a punt return and it was ASU's turn to turn down the favor and come up empty on their respective possession. In ASU's next to last possession of the game, Carpenter's already swollen thumb got worse, and lead to the insertion of backup signal caller Danny Sullivan. After handing off twice, in an attempt to shave more time off the game clock, the sophomore dropped back to pass on third down, and wasn't only sacked but also fumbled the pigskin which was recovered by UCLA.

Once again, the Devils' defense comes to the rescue. Barrett intercepts an Osaar Rasshan pass in the end zone, and he and his teammates halt UCLA's desperation multi-lateral play that ended the game and gave ASU its hardest fought victory of the season.

"You don't win nine games without finding ways (to win)," said Erickson. "You're not sure which group is gonna step up, and that's what happened. Defensively we stepped up, got some turnovers in the end, and that obviously made the difference in the game."

Carpenter was 16 of 31 for an even 200 yards. He threw for a score and was sacked five times. Herring had 116 net yards on 22 carries. Chris McGaha had a career day in receptions (9) and yards (123). Luis Vasquez paced the ASU defense with six tackles, all solo, and Dexter Davis had two sacks. Once again, the Devils won the time of possession, holding onto the ball for 33:03 minutes and had 352 total yards of offense.

The Sun Devils would love nothing better than to return to the scene of the crime, and play in the BCS bowl game here in Pasadena on New Year's Day. Nonetheless, performances like today in their last two regular season games, would probably nix that dream. The bye week (actually week and half) until the Thanksgiving night showdown against USC, has to serve the maroon and gold well and help shore up its deficiencies. Then again, another ugly win would be just as fine, wouldn't it?

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