TEMPE – UCLA knew that winning its final two games over Arizona State and USC to become bowl eligible would be a tall order.
Stopping Brock Osweiler proved to be taller.
The Sun Devils’ 6-foot-8 backup quarterback torched the Bruins for 380 yards and four touchdowns and added a scoring run as ASU came back from an early 17-point deficit to end UCLA’s postseason hopes with a 55-34 win at Sun Devil Stadium.
Relieving starter Steven Threet on ASU’s third drive after Threet went down with a head injury, Osweiler completed 27-of-36 passes against a Bruin defense that offered zero pressure.
“It’s lovely,” said ASU wide receiver Mike Willie, whose lone catch, a 32-yard touchdown reception, cut the UCLA lead to 17-14. “He can see everything. If he can see everything, I can see everything, and we’re on the same page. Man, it’s lovely.”
The Bruins were even prettier early against the stunned Sun Devils.
UCLA quarterback Richard Brehaut, who would set school records with 56 pass attempts and 33 completions, scored on a 12-yard touchdown run on the Bruins first drive.
After a punt on the second drive and a 40-yard Kai Forbath field goal on the third, UCLA recovered a fumble by ASU’s Deantre Lewis at the 46-yard line, and Brehaut hit a streaking Randall Carroll for a long touchdown.
Then the tide turned.
Maybe it was a tsunami.
The Sun Devils reeled off 21 straight points on three Osweiler touchdowns – for five yards to Aaron Pflugrad, 32 yards to Willie and seven yards to Gerell Robinson – to shift the momentum drastically.”
“We have to play a better leadership role to keep this team focused when we do get up 17-0,” said UCLA junior safety Tony Dye, who led the team with seven tackles and two tackles for loss. “We can’t become complacent. I’m putting it on us – me personally – I have to step up and be a better leader on this team. We have to close these games.”
Being able to score from a foot out might help.
After Arizona State’s Thomas Weber hit a 21-yard field goal on the team’s first drive of the third quarter, UCLA marched down the field to the Sun Devils’ 25-yard line.
On a Brehaut one-yard run, two personal foul penalties on Arizona State gave UCLA a 1st-and-goal from the Sun Devils’ six-yard line. Consecutive Malcolm Jones runs totaled two yards, and a Brehaut-to-Nelson Rosario pass completion was stopped just short of the goal line.
UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel decided to go for it, and rather than go with a quarterback sneak under center, offensive coordinator Norm Chow called for a zone-read run up the middle. Neuheisel told running back Johnathan Franklin to jump over the line and into the end zone.
Franklin instead ran directly into the middle of the line, Arizona State’s stout interior defense plugged the hole, and UCLA came away with nothing.
Three plays later, after starting the drive at their own 1-yard line, Sun Devil running back Cameron Marshall broke off a 71-yard touchdown run, effectively ending the Bruins’ chances.
“Richard is not a good quarterback-sneak guy,” Chow said. “Everybody is expecting a QB sneak. We thought we’d try to motion some, and cause a little confusion. It didn’t work.”
Arizona State’s offense sure did, though.
In piling up 595 yards, a season-high allowed for the Bruins, the Sun Devils had 342 in the second half, and whenever UCLA looked like it could come up with a crucial stop, ASU plowed through.
“They see the Cover-4 every day at practice, they run the same exact defense as us, and it seemed like they knew what we were in,” cornerback Aaron Hester said. “They were hitting all the vulnerable spots in our offense. We made some adjustments, but they’d come down and do it still. Fifty-five points? Man, that’s unacceptable.”
Once again, the Bruins searched for answers after the game.
A 17-0 lead disappeared into the thin Tempe air, and so did UCLA’s shot at the postseason, ensuring the Bruins a bowl-less December for the second time in three years.
“I don’t know if they’re not gamers,” defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. “As coaches, we have to figure out if we have too much installed, too much in there, is there confusion? During the week, they do a phenomenal job.
“It’s frustrating to the players and coaches by now; this is when we should be playing our best ball.”