Arizona State faces No. 20 UCLA in a matchup Saturday of Pac-12 teams looking to get the upper hand in the conference’s Southern Division.
The Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) will enter the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., after winning their first Pac-12 opener since Herm Edwards became head coach in 2018.
The 35-13 win over Colorado at home last week was highlighted by Jayden Daniels throwing for 236 yards and rushing for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson is a similar dual threat quarterback coming off 251 yards passing and 30 yards rushing with two touchdowns in the Bruins’ 35-24 win at Stanford last week.
Chip Kelly and Edwards were each hired in 2018 and Kelly has a 2-1 edge over Edwards heading into Saturday’s game.
Thompson-Robinson is 2-0 in his career against Arizona State. In those two victories, he is 34 of 47 (72.3 percent) for 368 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 23 times for 64 yards and one score.
“I don’t know if you stop him. I think you try to contain him,” Edwards said of Thompson-Robinson. “No one is going to stop him. Great athlete — you’re not going to stop him. You can try to contain him and hold him to a minimum. You have to understand your rush lanes.”
Practicing against Daniels during the week helped the Sun Devils prepare for Thompson-Robinson because of their similar styles.
“Our quarterback does the same thing. You run past him upfield and you open windows for the guy to escape,” Edwards said.
UCLA (3-1, 1-0) is hoping Thompson-Robinson will be healthy Saturday. He was in obvious pain clutching his right arm late in the win over Stanford.
“The one thing I don’t think gets mentioned enough with Dorian is how tough he is. He’s been tough from the get-go,” Kelly said. “It’s an underrated quality for a quarterback to be a tough guy. It’s something that we’ve known for four years now.”
Saturday’s game will feature two potent rushing offenses that are fueled by their running quarterbacks.
UCLA has produced 200 or more rushing yards in seven of its last 10 games and has held the advantage in the run game in 10 consecutive games.
Arizona State is at 211.5 rushing yards per game this season, second best in the conference, while averaging 3.8 rushing touchdowns in each contest.
Conversely, the rushing defenses of both teams are similarly strong.
UCLA is allowing only 2.4 yards per carry and 64.0 rushing yards per game, fifth-fewest in the country, while Arizona State’s defense is giving up 3.5 yards per carry and 123.3 yards per game on the ground.
A matter of concern is UCLA’s secondary, which has allowed 330.3 passing yards per game, ranking fifth-most in the nation — especially with Daniels as Saturday’s opponent. He is completing nearly 73 percent of his passes (69 of 95) while passing for 808 yards.
“I’m confident our coaching staff will put a pretty good plan together in how to defend him, but that’s obviously the key — Jayden is the key to that offense and we need to contain him because he’s explosive in the run game,” Kelly said.
–Field Level Media