Arizona State lands Pac-12 title-game berth

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PASADENA, Calif. -- No. 21 Arizona State left little doubt who the best team is in the Pacfic-12 Conference South Division, rumbling into the venerable Rose Bowl and beating No. 13 UCLA 38-33 on Saturday.
The victory gave the Sun Devils a spot in the conference championship game. Arizona State (9-2,7-2) will play Stanford in the title game in two weeks.
The only question now is where the game will be played. A Sun Devils victory over in-state rival Arizona next week would make Arizona State the host. A loss would allow Stanford to play at home.
Those details will be sorted out in due time. For now, the Sun Devils are the Pac-12 South champions after a decisive win over the Bruins, who rolled into the game on a three-game winning streak but could not overcome a dreadful first half in which they fell behind 35-13.
The Sun Devils turned away the Bruins' last minute comeback bid when it tackled Bruins wide receiver Jordan Payton short of the first down in the closing seconds.
And when they did, the Pac-12 South division was in their possession.
"We worked so hard to get to this point," Arizona State linebacker Chris Young said. "It's just great, all around, a great feeling.'
UCLA (8-3, 5-3) drew to 38-33 on a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brett Hundley to wide receiver Shaquille Evans early in the fourth quarter. But with a chance to take the lead late in the quarter, Hundley was sacked by the Sun Devils and kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn's 38-yard field goal attempt sailed wide and UCLA came away empty-handed.
It was the second big sidestep of the second half for the Sun Devils after UCLA crept within 35-27 early in the third quarter on a 3-yard run by running back Myles Jack and a 1-yard run by Paul Perkins.
The Sun Devils answered with a 28-yard field goal by kicker Zane Gonzalez to create some breathing room at 38-27.
"Tough people come out of tough times and we're a tough football team tonight," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said.
UCLA coach Jim Mora said, "We got ourselves in a hole in the first half and we were not able to recover. They fought tooth and nail for that thing, and it was just a little too much to overcome."
Hundley was sacked nine times by the Sun Devils, whose defensive line dominated the Bruins' young offensive front.
"The game plan was to contain him," Young said. "And obviously we did that."
Hundley finished with 253 yards passing and two touchdowns and put the Bruins in position to win.
"We made some adjustments at halftime and came out and played more efficient in the second half," Hundley said. "But we just fell short."
Arizona State dominated the first half, cruising to 35-13 lead behind the running and passing of Taylor Kelly, who accounted for two touchdowns, and a defense that stiffened to hold UCLA to two field goals after surrendering a first-quarter touchdown.
Kelly threw for 149 yards and a touchdowns and ran for 84 yards and a score in a scorching first half in which the Sun Devils took complete control of the game and the Pac-12 South.
His first score -- a 3-yard run -- capped a seven play, 76-yard game opening drive and his second put Arizona State up 35-13 with five seconds remaining in the first half on a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Jaelen Strong.
In between, running back D.J. Foster ran for a 3-yard touchdown, Carl Bradford intercepted Hundley and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown, and Michael Eubank scored on a 1-yard run for the Sun Devils.
"To beat a team like that, it's just amazing," Kelly said. "Offense, defense, kicking game. I'm just so proud of my guys."
NOTES: Coming into Saturday, Arizona State had forced at least one turnover in 24 consecutive games -- an active streak that ranked third in the FBS behind Missouri and Stanford and a streak they extended to 25 when Carl Bradford returned an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter. ... UCLA super sophomore Myles Jack, who started the season at linebacker and then added running back to his duties the last two weeks, played exclusively at running back in the first half.

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