No. 12 UCLA football seeks to blaze past Sun Devils in road matchup
Redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson stands in the pocket with his eyes downfield. Thompson-Robinson and No. 12 UCLA football will head to Tempe for a showdown with Arizona State on Saturday. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Sun Devil Stadium
By Francis Moon
Nov. 3, 2022 11:16 p.m.
Recent history has not been kind to top-10 teams playing in Tempe.
Coming off a blowout win a week ago, No. 12 UCLA football (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) will attempt to become the first team ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll to take down Arizona State (3-5, 2-3) at Sun Devil Stadium since 2012. The Sun Devils have emerged victorious three straight times against such teams at home despite entering all three matchups favored to lose.
Most recently, Arizona State gave then-No. 6 Oregon its second loss deep into the 2019 season as 14.5-point underdogs, crushing the Ducks’ hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff.
The Bruins find themselves in a similar position three years later, favored by 11 points and needing to win every game left in front of them for a shot at the CFP. But redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said he and the Bruins are not trying to get ahead of themselves.
“I’m just living in the moment right now,” Thompson-Robinson said. “I’m not focusing on anything further down the line or any bowl games or anything.”
Arizona State started its conference schedule this year with double-digit losses to then-No. 13 Utah and then-No. 6 USC but snapped its four-game losing streak the week after with an upset over then-No. 21 Washington. Since then, however, the Sun Devils granted Stanford its only win of the Pac-12 season thus far and squeaked past Colorado last week, the second-to-last ranked team in the conference.
After firing its head coach earlier this season, the team has also undergone a recent personnel change with Trenton Bourguet securing the starting quarterback job moving forward over the previous starter Emory Jones. Bourguet got the nod as the starter for the first time this year against the Buffaloes and responded by throwing for 435 yards and three touchdowns, completing just under 75% of his passes.
Coach Chip Kelly said Bourguet has opened new doors for Arizona State’s offense, and he has consequently made strengthening UCLA’s pass rush a key focus leading up to Saturday.
“He’s as good of a decision-maker as we’ve seen,” Kelly said. “It’s going to be all 11 on the defense playing pass defense. That’s got our full attention in terms of our defensive guys.”
The Bruins are coming off one of their most dominant wins of the season, taking down Stanford at home by 25 points. Despite not throwing for a touchdown for the first time this year, the blue and gold turned into a ground-and-pound unit behind senior running back Zach Charbonnet’s three rushing touchdowns and career-high 259 total yards.
Charbonnet credited the rest of his offense for opening up opportunities and said, though he and Thompson-Robinson get the stats, their offensive line allows the rest of the offense to go to work.
“Me and Dorian have spoken about how we feed off each other, the line does too,” Charbonnet said. “They’re the heart and soul of this offense, so we rely on them a lot.”
The Sun Devils dealt the Bruins a double-digit loss at home last season, but the blue and gold has won two out of the last three in the series. Leading up to his fourth and final matchup against Arizona State, Thompson-Robinson said he is aware of the challenges its versatile defense can present.
“Consistency is everything – it’s how you build success,” Thompson-Robinson said. “All of our away games, really every game in general this year, we’ve taken stuff from – and that’s the one thing I love about this team, we’re just continuing to build.”
Playing in the late window for the second consecutive week, UCLA will kick off in Tempe at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.