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UCLA rally falls short in 38-33 loss to Arizona State

A 22-point halftime hole is a little too much for the Bruins. The Sun Devils win the Pac-12 South and will advance to the conference title game.

November 23, 2013|By Chris Foster

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There was so much that was telling by the way two quarterbacks left the field Saturday.

Arizona State's Taylor Kelly first sprinted to the giddy Sun Devils fans at the far end of the Rose Bowl, then bounced all the way to the locker room.

UCLA's Brett Hundley walked purposely, gnawing on his mouthpiece, carrying a look that could melt cement.

A team from the Pac-12 South Division has a good chance of going to the Rose Bowl. Guess who it won't be?

The Bruins had their December plans considerably downsized Saturday. They won't be home for the holidays. Their plans now have a budget travel agency sound — El Paso on $5 a day.

Arizona State will get a crack at Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. The Sun Devils clinched a spot after holding on for a 38-33 victory, after the Bruins' feverish second-half rally fell short.

"These guys, they just fought back," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "It's just those what-ifs and the could've-beens and they don't matter."

Not even moving linebacker Myles Jack to running back full-time was enough. Jack finished with 86 yards and one touchdown. A footnote in a painful evening for UCLA.

"This one is going to hurt," said Hundley, who finished with 253 yards passing and threw two touchdowns. "We have to put it in the bag. We're blessed with another opportunity next week."

That would be USC in the Coliseum next Saturday.

Kelly, meanwhile, was a ball of energy after the game after throwing for 225 yards and running for another 99. He helped the Sun Devils build a 35-13 halftime lead and did enough things right in the second half for the Sun Devils to expunge some bad memories.

A year ago, the Sun Devils were kept out of the Pac-12 title game by a 45-43 loss to UCLA. Two years ago, the Bruins' 29-28 victory left Arizona State at home.

"We're on the good side now," Kelly said. "The past couple years, it came down to a field goal. It feels a lot better to be on this side of it."

Arizona State (9-2 overall, 7-1 in Pac-12) will play host to Stanford in the conference title game if it beats Arizona on Saturday.

The only remaining goal for UCLA (8-3, 5-3) is to win in the Coliseum for the first time since 1997.

"We're coming to win," Hundley said. "It's at SC, so we're going to have some fun."

Fun was lacking Saturday, at least on the UCLA side. The Sun Devils did everything right, and the Bruins did plenty of things wrong, which was reflected in Arizona State's 22-point halftime lead.

Still, the Bruins were 65 yards from victory with 3 minutes 21 seconds left.

Hundley completed his 14th consecutive pass to get UCLA to the Arizona State 45-yard line with 1:36 left.

But back-to-back holding calls on freshmen linemen Alex Redmond and Scott Quessenberry put UCLA in a no-win position.

"Situations like that are thrilling, but all drives are the same, whether it's the first drive or the last one," Hundley said. "You learn from all of them."

Saturday's lesson?

"Penalties hurt," Hundley said.

A lot of things did on UCLA's side.

Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn missed two field goals, and the second would have pulled UCLA within 38-36 with 4:38 left.

Hundley was sacked nine times, as the Bruins played much of the game with three freshmen offensive linemen against an experienced Arizona State defensive front.

But what hurt most was the Sun Devils showed up ready to go. The Bruins not so much.

"Football is not a complicated game," UCLA defensive end Cassius Marsh said. "You come out and play harder than the team across from you, then you're going to win the battle."

The Sun Devils came out and played hard. They had 357 yards by halftime, 208 on the ground. Kelly alternated dissecting the Bruins passing and carving them up running.

Kelly had 149 yards passing and 90 rushing in the half. He finished things off with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong with five seconds left. The 62-yard drive took 35 seconds.

"It's like he has a feeling for where the weaknesses of the defense are," Marsh said. "He gets first downs and makes it hard for you to get off the field."

The Bruins finally got off the field, but they weren't smiling. Kelly was.

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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