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UCLA Football: Bruins Nation's Arizona State Post-Game Roundtable Discussion

The writers and editors of Bruins Nation discuss the 2014 season's fourth game, a complete demolition of the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe, 62-27, with a lot of UCLA football players having an outstanding game, catapulting the Bruins back into the national spotlight, along with their suddenly-relevant again Heisman candidate, Brett Hundley.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1. Our Bruins picked up a huge road win on a Thursday night on the road against the defending Pac-12 South division champ - your first impressions of the win?

Bellerophon: Very satisfying victory - a complete win in all three phases of the game.  The offense rolled, the special teams play was simply electric, and I thought the defense played very well.  Based on a lot of the post-game commentary, I think I'm bucking the trend a bit in saying that the defense played well - yes, they gave up a lot of yards, but when you consider how many plays they had to defend and the simple fact they held Arizona State to just 27 points (this being a team that averaged 37+ points last year and 47+ points this year entering into this game) was impressive.  Yes, they didn't dominate and they were often frustrating, but they made plays when they needed to and it was Ishmael Adams' 95-yard INT return for a TD that changed everything about this game.  There were mistakes to be fixed and cleaned up for Utah, but it feels like this program finally got the Thursday night road game monkey off their back.  This game has the feeling like it could be the catalyst for a special run for this team.

Achilles: Tough to follow that answer, it's pretty complete. I'll add that I saw glimmers of a few things I've felt we lacked: playmakers. I knew we had Adams on the kick returns. But Jordan Payton, El Massington, Paul Perkins had big plays on the offense and if they grow into consistent threats our offense will be much better. Also, Brett Hundley had his best game of the year and maybe the best game I remember him playing.

UCLAluv:  I know the first quarter happened, but after that, it was an amazing game.  As Bellerophon said, it was special in all three phases of the game, but especially offense and special teams.  We've talked about Ish's returns.  He is awesome.  But this morning I was thinking about what must be happening with the whole return team.  Someone is doing some good coaching and scheming, getting the right guys out there, and they are bringing it.  Ish is special.  But the whole return team is setting it up.  As for Hundley, again after some reflection, he was the best I've ever seen him.  If one takes away the two early drops by Walker, Brett missed on only 3 passes!  Two came right after he took that little tumble that had us going "oh no".  He averaged over 15 yards per pass play.  The combination of accurate throwing, to the right guy, and the yards after the reception, showed Brett and his receivers were really clicking.    And the effort, never giving up on any play, remarkable.  I think they showed what they are capable of, I would like to tighten up the defense, but it was a great win.  Not because of who it came about, but because they played (for 2.5 quarters) the way we hoped they would.  Exciting football.

gbruin: It really shows what this team is capable of. Granted, we had a lot of things in our favor, but for a team which hadn't been very impressive so far, it was great to see that. There still were plenty of issues, particularly on defense, but when you look at the final score, wow. Also, when you consider how the Pac-12 South has come down to the final minute of play between us and ASU the last two years, getting a big win like this was really important.

JoeBruin15: This was the best game of the year so far. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I think the explosion that we saw was surprising insomuch that this was the first time this year we've seen that. Like gbruin said, it shows what the team is capable of. The key now is to build on the momentum that this game created.

IE Angel: The Bruins picked a great time to play their best game of the season. Arizona State is around a 9-win team with or without Taylor Kelly. Anytime you can beat a team that good by 30 points, you have had a good day. 5 defensive/special teams touchdowns this season with another one called back for a ridiculous penalty that had nothing to do with the play in the first game against Virginia. That's insane to think about. Not exactly how I expected the defense to be impactful, but the results speak for themselves.

2.  Thursday night's 62-27 demolition of the Sun Devils in Tempe featured a lot of big plays by some big-time players who stepped up and answered the call.  Who was your player of the game?  What was your play of the game?

Bellerophon:  While a lot of guys came up huge (Jake Brendel in leading an effective OL effort, Brett Hundley for his offensive exploits, Jordan Payton and Eldridge Massington for their big catches and YAC, Kendricks for a lot of big stops), without any doubt, my player of the game is Ishmael Adams.  This kid is special - Heisman special.  The trophy goes to college football's "most outstanding player" - the guy who changes games single-handedly.  If he keeps up these type of performances, then you have to put Ishmael in that conversation.  His big plays absolutely changed the entire course of the game - with the Bruins up 20-17, the Sun Devils were driving to end the first half and were easily in FG range.  At best, it looked like UCLA would go into half tied at 20-20, a result every UCLA fan would have been happy with given that we fell behind 17-6 early in the first quarter.  One bad throw later, Ishmael Adams was returning an INT all the way back for six points and the Bruins went into half ahead 27-17.  It changed the momentum of the game and had a major psychological impact on both teams - the Bruins came out and scored on the first play from scrimmage to open the third quarter.  The Sun Devils weren't completely broken yet and they answered with a good drive and a FG to make it 34-20.  That's where Ishmael, my player of the game, made the play of the game - breaking off a 105-yard kickoff return for a beautiful TD that absolutely broke the back of whatever fight Arizona State had left.  At that point, it was over - the Sun Devils were psychologically broken and the Bruins knew they were in the ascendancy. On a side note, for years, we at BN have lamented how UCLA didn't have a game-changing impact player capable of making the huge TD play - something we haven't really had in a decade-plus, with the exception of Maurice Jones-Drew and Alterraun Verner.  Boy, does it feel good to have a guy like Ishmael Adams in the team - if he can improve in his defensive coverage responsibilities, then he will be a serious candidate to follow in Charles Woodson's footsteps.

Achilles: Oh brother, are they paying you by the word? My players of the game are Adams and Hundley, for the obvious reasons. Hundley deserves special mention because he played hurt. He almost played like he had something to prove, like after Jerry Neuheisel's performance against Texas, Brett had to remind everyone whose team this was and exactly who the Heisman Trophy candidate is.

UCLAluv:  Everything Bellerophon said.  I do have to add Anthony Jefferson into the mix.  He came up big not only on the magical interception, but on many other plays.  When they put him on Strong he changed the game.  I think it's just a great story for the young man.  I remember when he was given a scholarship, after a practice with Neu.  The players were so excited for him.  He's been playing like this all season and has been incredibly valuable.

gbruin: Adams' pick 6 before halftime was undoubtedly the play of the game. As Bellerophon said, that was a killer for ASU to have to digest all through halftime and had to have been an incredible boost for our team. When you factor in his kickoff return to start the second half, Adams is easily my player of the game.

JoeBruin15: The play of the game is easy. It has to be the Adams Pick Six right before halftime. That was a 14-point turnaround and sent both teams into the locker room with the momentum in favor of UCLA. The player of the game is a lot tougher. Hundley had one of, if not, the best game of his collegiate career. The receivers and offensive line obviously made that possible. But, in my book, the guy who made the biggest plays of the game was Adams and so, he's my player of the game.

IE Angel: I'm not going to choose between Brett Hundley and Ishmael Adams because they were both outstanding in this one. 355 yards passing on 23 attempts is something that does not happen in real life very often. Those are EA Sports numbers. Adams is electrifying with the ball in his hands. Don't forget the other 44-yard return he had in addition to the two TDs.

3.  Which Bruin(s) deserve an honorable mention in this big road win?

Bellerophon:  It's hard because a lot of guys played a great game - as I mentioned above, Hundley, Brendel, Payton, and Massington all had really big games.  Paul Perkins was a stud on the ground, really grinding out yards.  Nate Starks looked solid in limited action.  Anthony Jefferson got away with a lot of pass interference, which was both dangerous but the signs of a crafty veteran defensive back - getting the job done and making a beautiful interception.  Kendricks and Jack were quietly very effective, just swallowing up D.J. Foster all night long.

Achilles: Jack, Kendrick, Perkins, Payton.

UCLAluv:  Jefferson, Jack, Perkins, Kendricks, Brendel, Massington, Duarte (he's always open), the whole return team, Payton,... maybe I should just pull out the roster.

gbruin: Brett Hundley was fantastic and should be right back in Heisman consideration with that game. Thomas Duarte showed what he is capable of. Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack were good at LB and Anthony Jefferson really shone. Also, props to Kenny Lacy for an admirable job filling in on the OL.

JoeBruin15: Hundley played a fantastic game. So did the offensive line and the receivers. Kendricks was all over the field, as usual.

IE Angel: On the offensive line, Malcolm Bunche and Kenny Lacy really stood out on the left side. Eddie Vanderdoes has looked a little better every week and could easily explode in the upcoming weeks with like a 4 TFL, 2 sack type of a game. Makes guards look like children sometimes. Jordan Payton was on another level in this one outside of the drop in the endzone.

4.  Despite the big win, it was far from a perfect effort - what negatives did you see in this game?

Bellerophon:  For me, it's a discussion about lost opportunities - Ulbrich had more chances to get Arizona State off the field, but tended to go conservative in obvious passing situations on third downs, letting the Sun Devils extend some drives they shouldn't have.  There were still some of those infuriating slow-developing Mazzone plays that never work out and cost us yards.  Most importantly, the lethargic start to the game on both sides of the ball, falling behind 17-6 in the first quarter was a big problem - Arizona State is a very good football team but they are not remotely as good as the Ducks.  We cannot afford to fall behind to Oregon - make no mistake, it will be a shootout (bet the over, no matter what Vegas sets the over/under line at).  We need to keep pace with the Ducks and if we fall behind early like we did against Arizona State, we may never be able to catch up against Oregon.

Achilles: Excuse my French, but if we don't cut down on the fucking penalties we're going to get ourselves beat in a game we should win. It's ridiculous. We've been the most penalized team in the country since Mora is our coach and it's all on him and the staff. That shit is just repetitions and discipline. Fix it now!

UCLAluv:  1.  Going down the middle when there's nothing there again and again and again.  Fortunately, there was less of it in the 2nd half.  And as a result, it actually worked (opened up) at times resulting in a beautiful run by Perkins.   2.  Friggin 3rd downs on d.  Are we going to allow every team to convert third down by throwing it under our coverage which is giving way too much room?  I know the idea is to stop the big play, and it is working.  But allowing 3rd down conversions on similar plays,m ultiple times on the same drive is also dangerous..  3.  The friggin penalties.  In the 1st half: 7 for 70 yards.  In the 2nd: 1 for 8 yds.  It can be changed.  The anger on Mora's face after one of those penalties must have come through at the half.  Something happened.  They can be cut way down.  So it must be done.

gbruin: The defense gave up almost 500 yards passing to a backup QB and over 600 yards overall. That's ridiculous. I get that the plan was to sell out to contain DJ Foster, but what's the defense going to do against Marcus Mariota and his host of weapons?

JoeBruin15: Penalties continue to kill us, but I was surprised that we were only flagged once in the second half. The defense needs to find a way to get itself off the field. They gave up far, far too much yardage. I know they were on the field for over 100 plays but, when you're on the field that much, guys are going to get tired. When guys get tired, mistakes get made and mistakes usually result in the other team scoring. The fact that we "only" gave up 27 points was amazing. It wasn't so much an issue on 3rd down. The Sun Devils were 11-20 on 3rd down conversions. It was really the first and second down conversions that let ASU drive down the field most of the game.

IE Angel: The penalties in the first half were just ridiculous and directly affected the score in the early going. I wasn't crazy about the defensive scheme, but I understood why Ulbrich and Mora went with an approach that forced Mike Bercovici to go with short passes and waited on him to make mistakes (which he did). Three more drops (2 if you want to put the first Kenny Walker drop on the throw despite it hitting both his hands), one on a TD. More missed tackles than usual. There are plenty of places to improve.

5. What needs to get fixed before the Bruins host a Pac-12 South division game against a well-coached and well-disciplined Utah Utes team?

Bellerophon:  We have to clean up the penalties - I know Mora likes to say he's not worried about them, but some of them are not just costly, but entirely preventable.  Lining up in the neutral zone should never happen. The holdings, hands to the face, and pass interference calls need to get cleaned up.  We need to come out of the gates firing on all cylinders - Utah isn't the high-powered offensive machine that Oregon is (or even that Arizona State is) but we can't afford to be asleep at the switch to open the game - we need to get out early and get our thumb on top of the Utes early - they are a good team and if we let them hang around, it could come back to bite us - I have nightmares of us losing to them on a last-second FG.  We need to get up on them early and put the knife to their throats - no letting up.

Achilles: Okay, I wrote my penalties rant before I saw your answer here. I'll change this up and say we need to stop letting teams convert on third and long.

UCLAluv:  Yes, the penalties.  And I don't think Mora has said that lately.  And this:  "  We need to get up on them early and put the knife to their throats - no letting up."  Maybe they should play 10 minutes on the field before the game starts?

gbruin: Can you say trap game? Discipline has to be the key for U.C.L.A. against Utah. We have them at home and we have better talent. That means that we have to not give them extra opportunities. We have to tackle well on 3rd down on defense and get off the field. We need to win the turnover battle again. And we can't give them free yards from penalties. If you look at the schedule, we have a pretty big game the week after, but we need our team to forget about that (like I just didn't) and focus on this game.

JoeBruin15: Penalties. Penalties. Penalties. A well-coached and well-disciplined team will take advantage of the yardage gained by penalties. If we can play two halves against Utah like the second half against ASU, I'd call it a success. The other thing is that it is ALL about maintaining focus on the Utes. Sure, everyone knows what follows. But if the team doesn't focus on coming out on Saturday against the Utes like they did against ASU, next week doesn't matter.

IE Angel: What everyone else has said is warranted, but I am less worried about Utah than I was at the start of the year. They are still a team capable of beating the Bruins if things go astray, but away from Rice-Eccles Stadium the Utes haven't shown me that they can beat an above average Pac-12 squad like UCLA. In their time in the conference, they haven't beaten a team on the road with more than 4 wins in the Pac-12 (1-11 Colorado in 2012, , 4-8 Arizona in 2011, 4-8 Wazzu in 2011). I don't think that changes on Saturday.

6. The extra point - fire away:

Bellerophon:  For a very long time, Thursday night games against a ranked opponent on the road was the perfect storm of disaster for UCLA football - in years past, we would have fell flat on our face on national TV and gotten blown out in embarrassing fashion.  This team went out and punched the Sun Devils right in the mouth.  Best of all, they never let up.  In years past, UCLA would soften up, lose focus, and let the opposition hang around the game, keeping it close.  Against the Sun Devils, these Bruins were ruthless - they put their foot on Arizona State's throat and never let up.  That attitude will need to remain if UCLA wants to make a serious push for the Pac-12 conference crown and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Achilles: This was an important, must win and we won. We won big. Our bend but don't break defense keeps me on edge every game, but the turnovers we're forcing is a new and welcome thing. But can you count on the takeaways every time you get in trouble? I don't know, maybe you can. Hundley took a major step forward and if that continues, we'll be tough. I wish Simon Goines would come back and be great, because we could use him. I think people forget that our starting tackles this season were supposed to be Goines and Torian White and the former is hurt and the latter is long gone. Bad luck, we'd be much better with those two guys.

UCLAluv:  From Bellerophon: "these Bruins were ruthless - they put their foot on Arizona State's throat and never let up. ".  From Achilles:  "Our bend but don't break defense keeps me on edge every game, but the turnovers we're forcing is a new and welcome thing. But can you count on the takeaways every time you get in trouble?"  I'll add, I went to the local watch party for the 2nd half, and it was awesome to be in a crowd like that when UCLA was playing like that.  I love the brand of ball we're playing right now, when we're playing it.  I think Brett's off season work is really showing.  He has become a truly elite qb we thought he could become.  He did the work and it is showing.  His decision making and pass accuracy in this game was almost perfect.  It is so good to see.  He is the kind of guy that is so easy to root for and I am so happy for him, and for us.  We haven't played like this since 1998 and it is awesome.  Now, consistency.  The passion, hard hitting, never giving up, I hope this game has flipped the switch in our team, that never gets flipped back.  They have experienced what they can be, and that can be powerful!  Oh yah.  I ordered a poster of Ish for when college game day comes to the Rose Bowl on October 11th.  Okay, we don't know if they will be coming, but they better be!  We'll have to have a sign preparation thread!

gbruin: I hate the unbalanced schedule in the Pac-12. We should have a huge leg up in the South by virtue of beating ASU, but both of us still have to play Oregon while stupid Southern Cal misses both Oregon and Washington. Now, if we play this season like we played the last 3 quarters of that game, it won't matter and we'll be fine.  But the question of consistency is still a big issue with this team. Nevertheless, it was reassuring to see the offense so sharp in a tough midweek road game.  If they roll like that, the defense just needs to keep the opponents from matching touchdowns That's what they did on Thursday and you can see the result.  Let's hope that continues. And big props to our special teams.

JoeBruin15: What other Power 5 conference besides the Pac-12 plays games on a weeknight every week? OK, this year, it worked out. We got to play an important game on Thursday in the Desert without a lot of competition from other sports or leagues, but next year's schedule with back-to-back Thursday night games against the NorCal teams, effectively eliminates the reason for keeping them on our schedule every year by making it tough for us to travel to Stanford and for Cal fans to travel to the Rose Bowl the following week. I don't care how much money ESPN and Fox are paying the conference. It's time to eliminate the Thursday night games.

IE Angel: I think that this win is the 3rd best victory in college football so far this season. The Oregon win over Michigan State is #1 by quite a bit and I think Mississippi State's win over LSU was more impressive, but UCLA took advantage of a national stage to look the best of any team this weekend. Winning the next two games puts UCLA in the driver's seat for a spot in the college football playoff. Handling business in the Rose Bowl is UCLA's primary objective now.

That's it for this week folks.  Fire away in the comment thread with your thoughts on the Arizona State victory as we begin getting ready to take on a well-coached Utah Utes program this upcoming Saturday night.