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By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Bruins take on the Trojans on Saturday after stunning loss to the Sun Devils

 

November 16, 2023

UCLA running back T.J. Harden carries the ball against Arizona State last Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

In Week 10 of the college football season, the Arizona State Sun Devils hit rock-bottom as a football team, losing to the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City, 55-3. The Utes had 513 yards in total offensive yardage and held the Sun Devils to just 83 yards in offense. The Sun Devils were struggling with injuries and a young roster. A matchup with the UCLA Bruins in Week 11 at the Rose Bowl did not look inviting.

The Sun Devils went from rock-bottom in Week 10 to the Penthouse in Week 11 at the Rose Bowl, upsetting the Bruins 17-7, before a crowd of 56,436 fans in the Rose Bowl. The Sun Devils had just 250 yards in total offense and scored just 17 points, but that was all that was needed to defeat the Bruins and their struggling offense.

The Bruins came into the game with their top two quarterbacks, Ethan Garbers and Dante Moore, both injured and on the sidelines for this game. The Bruins elected to start quarterback Collin Schlee, who is the best running quarterback the Bruins have, but has struggled in limited opportunities as a passer.

Schlee came into the game having completed 3 of 13 passes for 22 yards and two interceptions. As a running quarterback, Schlee had rushed for 247 yards on 21 carries for an average per carry of 11.7 yards and had three rushing touchdowns.

The Bruins were trailing 3-0 and had a first-and-goal at the Sun Devil five-yard line midway through the second quarter. The Bruins ran four straight running plays up the middle, with the Sun Devils holding the Bruins out of the end zone at the one-yard line. Running back Carson Steele carried the ball on three of the four attempts.

UCLA could have gone with a play-action pass if they had confidence in their quarterback or just decided to tie the game with a field goal. The Bruins defense held the Sun Devils at the one-yard line and forced a punt, with Logan Loya taking the punt at the Sun Devils 49-yard line and returning it 31 yards to the Sun Devils 18-yard line.

Schlee completed a nine-yard pass to running back Keegan Jones to get to the nine-yard line. Needing one yard for a first down, the Bruins ran T.J. Hardin twice and got nothing. On 4th-and-one from the nine-yard line, the Bruins again passed on the field goal and decided to run Steele up the middle, which went nowhere. The Sun Devils defense had again stopped the Bruins conservative offensive attack.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Bruins drove to the ASU 37-yard line, and on 4th-and-two from the 37, ran Steele up the middle. He only gained one yard. Three 4th down plays with runs up the middle. For the game, Schlee completed 11 of 18 passes for 117 yards and one touchdown. The touchdown pass came in the fourth quarter to Loya for 16 yards on first down. The Bruins coaching staff finally decided to throw a pass to a wide receiver in the end zone. That cut the ASU lead to 10-7 with 9:47 remaining in the game.

Bruins head coach Chip Kelly was asked what he told the team after the game. "I told them that it was on us, as coaches," Kelly said. "We didn't do a good enough job of preparing these guys for this football game. We will come back tomorrow. We have a game against the team across town and that will get our full attention, and we will meet tomorrow as a team."

Kelly also said that the decision to run on 4th down near the goal line was his decision and "I was wrong. That's 100 percent on my shoulders." The Sun Devils were well-prepared, played with a lot of energy and emotion. After their blowout loss to the Utes, they could have just showed up and rolled over. But they used multiple formations on offense, some very odd, to attempt to confuse the Bruins defense and slow down the Bruins pass rush. It worked, along with a defense that held the Bruins to 7 points and 300 yards in offense. The Bruins have scored 17 points in the past two games.

ASU improved to 3-7 on the season and the Bruins fell to 6-4 for the season. The Bruins will travel across town this Saturday, November 18, to play their rival, the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game will start at 12:30 pm locally and will be nationally televised on ABC.

This will be a matchup of two football teams going in the wrong direction, the offensively challenged UCLA Bruins will take on the defensively challenged USC Trojans. The winner will take home the Victory Bell.

Jevone Moore

Both teams come into the Coliseum with two game losing streaks. The Trojans have lost two in a row and four of their last five games. They have given up an average of 43 points per game over the past seven games. But they are also third in the nation is scoring per game at 43.8 points per game and are led by Heisman trophy winner Caleb Williams, who is tied for second in the nation with 29 touchdown passes.

The Bruins will not win on Saturday if they do not get their offense going. As good as the UCLA defense is, they cannot win this game against USC without support from the offense. The USC offense is just too good and is going to score points.

The Bruins will need to get the ball downfield to their wide receivers. Against ASU, the Bruins had four receptions for 43 yards from wide receivers. Cal transfer J. Michael Sturdivant had one reception for four yards. USC transfer Kyle Ford had zero receptions against ASU. Coach Kelly will need to open up the playbook on Saturday if they expect to beat USC.

 

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