PASADENA, California – With 29 players on ASU’s roster hailing from Southern California, Saturday night’s game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl meant focusing on taking a win back to Arizona, despite playing to the roar of family and friends.
“Last time we were here, emotions got the best of us. I told ’em to treat it like a business trip. The guys were dialed in at the hotel and all this week,” ASU head coach Herm Edwards said in a postgame news conference.
“Dialed in” is exactly how the Sun Devils played the No. 19 ranked Bruins. They won 42-23, completely shutting out UCLA in the second half.
San Bernardino native Jayden Daniels put on a show Saturday night, dicing up the Bruins defense for 286 yards and two touchdowns on the day. The junior quarterback also got it done on the ground with six rushes for 45 yards.
“I don’t know how many friends and family came out,” he said Saturday, “but it felt great coming back home and getting win for them, getting a win for my grandpa that passed. [Friday] was his birthday.”
Compton native Darien Butler said that, despite the distance from Tempe, Saturday’s game was still a home game.
“It’s always good to come home and put on a show,” said Butler, ASU’s defensive captain. “Lot of guys probably have family and friends watching us and coming out to the game. It’s always a good feeling, especially in Cali. I already said it before, I feel like I’m at home. I am at home, actually this is my home.”
ASU’s defense had a tough task attempting to contain UCLA’s dynamic senior quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who’s known as DTR. ASU also was without starting safety Evan Fields, and had veteran edge rusher Tyler Johnson on limited snaps.
“It was a difficult challenge with DTR, a very special player, but I give my guys credit,” ASU defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce said. “With a lot of guys going down, it was a ‘Next man up’ mentality. All the other guys stepped up to the job and kept fighting. It wasn’t the prettiest of times, but we got the stops when they mattered most in the red zone.”
It certainly was not a pretty game by either side, as ASU had six penalties, which was an improvement from the previous four weeks, when they accumulated 43 penalties over four games against Southern Utah, UNLV, BYU and Colorado. UCLA had eight penalties, two of them for holding on potential 2022 NFL first round pick Sean Rhyan.
“The Pac-12 leads all conferences with penalties in football, we got to fix that,” Edwards said.
When the team wasn’t being penalized, however, the offense got the ball rolling. Redshirt freshman running back DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum returned to the field in his first game back since the opener for the Sun Devils and saw a heavy load, carrying the ball 16 times for 67 yards and a touchdown.
“There was definitely some rust to knock off,” Trayanum said. “It was good to get back out there, though. Once I got those first two plays in under my belt, coach got me rolling.”
Tempe native Ricky Pearsall had a huge night, hauling in four receptions for 132 yards and two long touchdowns.
“We’re never satisfied as an offense, but this is just a glimpse of what we can do,” he said.
Daniels is only in his ninth game under offensive coordinator Zak Hill’s system, but he continues to see improvement each week.
“Every week he’s getting more familiar with the offense,” Edwards said. “He’s getting in sync with Zak and the receivers.”
With the win, ASU moves on to 4-1 to lead the Pac-12 South. The team also ranked No. 22 on the AP Top 25 poll, while UCLA dropped out.
“It was a huge team win,” Daniels said. “There were a lot of implications in this game as the two teams leading the Pac-12 south, but the job’s not finished. It’s just one week and one game.”
The Sun Devils are headed back to Tempe to face Stanford, fresh off an upset over formerly No. 3 ranked Oregon.
Stood up to the challenge.
On to the next. 🔱 pic.twitter.com/j4LBL6SwIu
— Sun Devil Football (@ASUFootball) October 3, 2021
“It’s a week to week situation in the Pac-12. You never know what’s going to happen,” Edwards said. “We won a huge conference game on the road, but we’ve got an even bigger one at home next week against Stanford.”