Five questions: Arizona Republic’s Doug Haller on Arizona State

UCLA responded to losing three defensive starters in a big way last weekend, rolling out to a 56-30 win at then-No. 16 Arizona. Can the No. 7 Bruins keep it going against an Arizona State team that might be the most disappointing in the conference? Doug Haller, who is covering his sixth season of ASU football for the Arizona Republic and, answered five questions about the Sun Devils.

1. During Arizona State’s 42-14 loss to USC last Saturday, you called this the worst half of football you’d seen out of the Sun Devils in your time covering them. What set this apart from their performances in other blowout losses?

Mostly, the overall sloppiness. They fumbled twice in USC territory — once at the 1-yard line. That one was picked up and returned for a touchdown. Then on the ensuing kick-off, ASU’s returner made a poor decision to bring the ball out of the end zone and fumbled. So that gave USC 14 points in about 30 seconds. Contributing: The defense tackled as poorly as it has all season and couldn’t get off the field on third down. It was ugly.

2. Mike Bercovici’s numbers haven’t slipped that far overall compared to last season, but against Texas A&M and the Trojans, he’s only completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 471 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Was he playing over his head during his three-game tear in 2014, or was that stretch closer to his true abilities?

When I think back to his performance last season, I always wonder: Had that last-season Hail Mary fallen incomplete, giving Bercovici one win in three starts, how would that have changed the offseason excitement? It’s a hard question to answer. Either way, here’s what’s changed: Last year, ASU had a solid offensive line. This season it has two first-time starters at tackle. Continue reading “Five questions: Arizona Republic’s Doug Haller on Arizona State” »

Jim Mora: Lack of clarity on Brett Hundley doesn’t give UCLA edge

As he has for most of the past week, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley practiced on Tuesday with a brace covering his left elbow — the one he injured in a 20-17 win against Texas 10 days ago.

And as he has for most of the past week, UCLA head coach Jim Mora didn’t offer many details: “He’s been limited. He’s done a few things. He’s worked a little bit.” He said again that he is relying on the team’s medical staff to determine if Hundley is ready — a decision that could stretch, naturally, as late as Thursday evening.

Mora added that the lack of clarity surrounding his star quarterback’s health doesn’t give UCLA any sort of tactical advantage heading into Thursday’s 7 p.m. kickoff at Arizona State, particularly given who the Sun Devils’ head coach is. Continue reading “Jim Mora: Lack of clarity on Brett Hundley doesn’t give UCLA edge” »

First look: Arizona State Sun Devils

No. 11 UCLA Bruins (3-0) vs. No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils (3-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. PT, Sun Devil Stadium (Tempe, Ariz.)
TV: FOX Sports 1 (Tim Brando, Joel Klatt, Jenny Taft)
Radio: AM 570 / SIRIUS 108 (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Coach: Remember when Todd Graham looked like the biggest turncoat in college football?

A little more than a year ago, ESPN’s anonymous poll of 92 college football players found that 14 percent said Graham was the last coach they’d want to play for — beating out Lane Kiffin by three percent.

But Graham only needed two seasons to win a Pac-12 South title, endearing himself to the Arizona State fan base and pushing his messy departure from Pitt deeper into the newspaper archives. ASU has compensated him handsomely for that success — paying him around $800,000 in performance bonuses for the 2013 season.

Key players:

QB Mike Bercovici, Jr., 6-1, 200 — 9/17, 79 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 7 carries, 12 rushing yards
— Once considered Brock Osweiler’s heir apparent until Taylor Kelly won out, Bercovici finally gets his chance to start in the wake of Kelly’s foot injury. He’s not the same type of running threat as Kelly (ASU’s second-leading rusher at 19 carries for 168 yards) but Bercovici has a strong arm and has been in the program for years.

RB D.J. Foster, Jr., 5-11, 205 — 54 carries, 510 rushing yards, 5 TD, 11 catches, 139 receiving yards, 1 TD
— Looks like a workhorse back capable of racking up yards after contact. Averages 216.3 all-purpose yards per game, good for second in the country and one spot ahead of Georgia’s Heisman candidate Todd Gurley. Continue reading “First look: Arizona State Sun Devils” »

Pac-12 links: Judge rules against NCAA in landmark O’Bannon case

» In a landmark case that could change amateurism, a judge ruled in favor of Ed O’Bannon and against the NCAA. Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann breaks down the implications of Claudia Wilken’s decision, as well as the legal road ahead.

» A feature on USC coach Steve Sarkisian, by columnist Mark Whicker: “Some coaches have five and 10-year plans. Sarkisian, 40, has lived in a quick-pivoting sports car, not always using signals, barreling down the roads less traveled, looking straight ahead.”

» Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson is trying to win Utah’s starting quarterback job — and perhaps help redeem the family name. Continue reading “Pac-12 links: Judge rules against NCAA in landmark O’Bannon case” »

Pac-12 links: No bowl tickets for rude Washington State fans

— If you sent Washington State athletic director Bill Moos a particularly nasty email last year, you might not be able to buy bowl tickets.

— Trying to earn home field advantage for the Pac-12 title game, Arizona State and Todd Graham are learning to deal with the limelight.

— Still undecided about his NFL draft plans, Washington tailback Bishop Sankey is on the brink of the school’s single-season rushing record. Continue reading “Pac-12 links: No bowl tickets for rude Washington State fans” »