UCLA football: A fan's look back at Arizona State
A team on a winning streak, a beautiful November afternoon in Southern California and senior day could coax only 46,151 fans to show up at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
Yes, there still is a long way to go for the UCLA football team to return to any kind of prominence, but I'll take a late-season three-game charge any time.
For that matter, if someone told me this summer that in late November the Bruins would have a mathematical chance to finish in front of their cross-town rival in Pac-10 standings, I probably would have asked what they were drinking.
Here are observations, opinions and reflections from the fan's chair after UCLA's 23-13 win over Arizona State.
-- Tennis anyone? Does anyone else think that when Kevin Prince is wearing his helmet, he kind of looks like tennis star Andy Roddick? Not so much with the helmet off and his recently grown beard showing. For that matter, I thought Arizona State quarterback Samson Szakacsy kind of looks like Andre Agassi.
-- Speaking of Prince, I still cringe every time he takes off running, but the guy certainly can't be accused of not having heart. Not sure how much Arizona State's defense had to do with it -- probably a lot -- but Prince looked rather out of sorts throwing the ball. Better to get it out of his system now and still win, I guess.
-- Prince did have a heads-up play early in the fourth quarter after Taylor Embree appeared to fumble the ball after a catch, though the officials never signaled it to be Arizona State's ball. Prince rushed the team to the line and ran a play before any video review could take place, and Kai Forbath ended up kicking the last of this three field goals for a 23-7 lead.
-- Forbath later missed a 51-yard attempt with 6:29 left and UCLA leading 23-13. Despite the miss, and the Bruins only moving the ball 22 yards behind seven consecutive carries by Chane Moline, UCLA was able to milk a valuable 5:12 off the clock, leaving ASU with little time to mount a comeback.
-- It was great to see Moline have a career game (25 carries, 84 yards) on senior day, but I must say that the lack of a true running game worries me. Though at this stage, I suppose dependability as far as holding onto the football is probably a more valuable commodity. But something tells that to beat USC, Johnathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman, Damien Thigpen or somebody will need to step up and perform.
-- When Brian Price limped off the field after three plays, I thought the UCLA defense might be doomed. But Price came back soon enough with his right ankle heavily taped, had one of his most dominant games with four tackles for a loss, including two sacks, and generally mucked up anything Arizona State wanted to do on offense.
-- Another key on defense was Akeem Ayers, who used his speed several times to line up at defensive end -- with Price lined up on the other side -- and pressured Szakacsy into two sacks, had another tackle for a loss and returned a fumble nine yards for a touchdown late in the first half. The fumble, incidentally, was caused by Price.
-- Before that, Ayers cost UCLA a fumble recovery for being offsides on a play when the Sun Devils turned it over. But two plays later, Ayers made up for it by causing a fumble by poking it loose from Trevor Kohl with Alterrraun Verner recovering it.
-- Though it seemed as if the UCLA defense dominated, forcing six turnovers, it is somewhat concerning that ASU running back Dimitri Nance rushed for 110 yards. In fact, ASU was mounting a good opening drive behind Nance before Szakacsy threw an interception that Verner returned 68 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Bruins lead.
-- Another bothersome trend for the Bruins was the 11 penalties for 100 yards. Way too much for this time of year. After starting the season keeping the penalties to a minimum, things seem to be going in the wrong direction.
-- I had no idea Toby Gerhart's younger brother, Garth, played for Arizona State. Garth Gerhart is the backup center for the Sun Devils and came into the game in the first quarter when starter Thomas Altieri suffered an injury.
-- Despite his school ties, I must say that Petros Papadakis is one of my favorite analysts out there. He was right on the money early in the game. Said Padadakis: "Don't be surprised if UCLA pulls out some kind trick play at some point." On the next play, Prince sprinted out wide leaving Moline in the wildcat formation to take a direct snap that turned into a double pass.
-- Speaking of the wildcat, the Bruins looked out of sorts on a few other occasions, picking up illegal-procedure penalties. Running back Milton Knox, who had success in the formation in previous games, never made onto the field.
-- Nice going: Sean Westgate had a fumble recovery on a kickoff late in the first half... Kevin Craft came in for a few plays at quarterback when Prince injured his lower back... Nelson Rosario had another solid game with six catches for 81 yards... Kyle and Korey Bosworth teamed for 11 tackles... UCLA did not commit a turnover.
-- Final grade: B. The defense made plays when it needed to, and that will need to be the case this week against USC if the Bruins expect to have any chance to win. Offensively, the Bruins struggled, but then again this was the Pac-10's best defense and even USC scored only 14 points on ASU. All in all, the victory wasn't pretty, but when you're on a three-game winning streak in November, who cares about looks?