LOS ANGELES -- The No. 19 Arizona State University football team held off a second-half push by UCLA to claim the Pac-12 South Divisional Title in a 38-33 decision on Saturday in Los Angeles.
No. 14 UCLA’s Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a field goal with 4:38 remaining and the Sun Devils were able to hold off one final UCLA drive to claim the divisional championship for the first time since the Pac-12 expanded into North and South divisions three years ago. UCLA was the two-time defending Pac-12 South Champion.
The Sun Devils (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) are guaranteed a place in the Pac-12 Championship game, slated to take place on Dec. 7.
Carl Bradford had an interception return for a touchdown and the ASU defense had a season high eight sacks in the victory.
Taylor Kelly finished 20-for-27 for 225 yards and a touchdown while rushing for a career high 99 yards and a touchdown in the winning effort. Marion Grice added 95 yards on the ground and a season-high 72 receiving yards as he finished the game with 268 all-purpose yards.
The Sun Devils finished with 448 total yards after not managing to reach 350 in games against Utah and Oregon State in previous weeks.
UCLA’s Brett Hundley was 18-of-26 for 253 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Myles Jack led UCLA rushers with 16 rushes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
It was all UCLA (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) in the second half following a dominating first half effort by ASU as the Bruins went 79 yards on their opening drive of the second half that was capped by a Myles Jack three-yard rush to make the score 35-20.
UCLA forced a three-and-out on the Sun Devils on the ensuing drive and ASU mishandled the snap on the punt, giving the Bruins a short field that the opponent quickly turned to seven points on a Paul Perkins one-yard rush.
ASU momentarily stymied the rally with a 10-play, 64-yard drive that was capped with a 28-yard Zane Gonzalez field goal – his 15th straight – to make it a two possession game at 38-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bruins wouldn’t go quietly into the night, however, driving right down the field and scoring on a 27-yard catch-and-run by Shaquelle Evans to make it 38-33 in favor of ASU following a failed two-point conversion.
The Sun Devils did their damage on the ground in the first quarter, rushing for 124 yards in the frame while Kelly and D.J. Foster each found the end zone on three-yard rushes. The total was notable, as ASU had combined for just 414 total first quarter rushing yards leading up to the game.
Kelly found the end zone first for the Sun Devils on a third yard-scamper on the opening drive of the game before the Bruins answered following a long kickoff return with a 42-yard strike from Hundley to Devin Lucien to even things up.
After a 48-yard Fairbairn kick, the Sun Devils answered with an eight-play, 82-yard drive in just 2:52 – capped by Foster touchdown – to take a 14-10 advantage.
ASU pulled away on the first play of the second quarter as Carl Bradford read Hundley’s eyes on a screen pass, intercepting Hundley and returning it 18 yards to the house for his first career touchdown return.
Following a missed field goal by Fairbairn, the Sun Devils would eventually drive 69 yards in 13 plays - running 5:28 off the clock late in the second quarter – to take a 28-10 lead.
UCLA would respond with a 69-yard kick return but only managed a field goal with the good field position to make it 28-13 but the Sun Devils weren’t done.
With just 40 seconds left on the clock, Taylor Kelly ran for 23 yards followed by a 20-yard completion to Cameron Smith to set up a 19-yard strike to Jaelen Strong with five second left in the frame to take what appeared to be a commanding 35-13 lead into the break.
The Sun Devils return to action for what could be the home finale next weekend in the annual Territorial Cup rivalry game against Arizona in Tempe, Ariz., next Saturday. The game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. MT kickoff. With a victory in that game, Arizona State would host the Pac-12 Championship game.