Arizona State withstood a furious second half rally from UCLA to clinch the Pac 12 South championship and a berth in the Pac 12 championship game against Stanford with a 38-33 victory on Saturday night.
The Sun Devils offense, led by quarterback Taylor Kelly, used a balanced attack of 226 passing yards and 232 rushing yards to jump on the Bruins early and provide a huge cushion for its bend but don’t break defense.
Kelly passed for 225 yards and a touchdown and also racked up 99 yards and a score on the ground. Marion Grice added 95 yards rushing and 72 yards receiving for ASU (9-2, 7-1), who are in prime position to host the Pac-12 title game in two weeks. To do so, the Sun Devils will need to knock off in-state rival Arizona in the Territorial Cup game next week.
After falling behind 10-7 late in the first quarter, the Sun Devils offense reeled off 21 unanswered points before a Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal brought UCLA to a manageable 28-13 deficit with 47 seconds left in the first half.
The Sun Devil offense quickly responded, though, marching 62 yards in just five plays to increase the lead to 35-13. The drive was capped off by a Kelly 19-yard touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong with just five seconds left in the half.
The Bruins would not go down quietly in the second half. UCLA opened the half with a 10-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a three yard touchdown run from freshman two-way stud Myles Jack. The Bruins defense then stiffened, forcing a three and out and a subsequent special teams miscue from ASU gave the Bruins great field position. They took full advantage when a Paul Perkins touchdown run brought the Bruins to within eight, 35-27.
After a Zane Gonzalez field goal increased the lead to 38-27, UCLA responded with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Brett Hundley to Shaquille Evans. The UCLA offense kept the pressure on, but the Sun Devils defense did not relinquish the lead.
The Sun Devils have reeled off six straight victories and will be seeking revenge in the title game against a Stanford team that beat them 42-28 on Sept. 21.
Todd Graham's bunch are undefeated at home, so a win against Arizona -- who upset Oregon Saturday -- will be crucial if the Sun Devils hope to win its first conference title since 2007 and earn a spot in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
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