PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Down five offensive linemen and facing one of the top defenses in the country, Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham knew he had to be unconventional if the Sun Devils had any shot of competing against UCLA.
They not only competed, they pulled off the win.
Using a variety of different formations, Arizona State kept the Bruins off balance Saturday night in its 17-7 victory at the Rose Bowl.
The Sun Devils (3-7, 2-5 Pac-12) were without 14 players, including five offensive linemen, yet managed to rebound from last week’s 55-3 loss at No. 18 Utah and defeat the Bruins, who were 18 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“I was trying to put our players in the best position to win. Point blank,” Dillingham said. “Did we really want to play 70 snaps for these guys just to try to kill our quarterback? And the answer was no, we did not.”
Arizona State went to a swinging gate formation often and had one play during the first half that was a combination of a swinging gate and flying wedge formations.
The use of the swinging gate came out of Dillingham's meetings with longtime former Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who is a special advisor on Arizona State's staff. Lewis told Dillingham about a game where Jim Fassel used the swinging gate multiple times when Fassel was the head coach at Utah and Lewis was coaching linebackers at New Mexico.
Lewis also had experience running the swinging gate as well, as he and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson used it a couple times in Cincinnati in 2014 and '15.
“I’m like, ‘Alright, if this guy was an NFL head coach, and you and Hue Jackson can do it, then why can’t we do it here?’ Kudos to the players for believing in something that’s unique and goofy. And not just saying ‘Oh coach doesn’t think we can win.’,” Dillingham said.
Cam Skattebo rushed and passed for touchdowns in the second half. The junior running back threw a 25-yard touchdown to Elijhah Badger in the third quarter and then put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter with a 17-yard carry up the left sideline and into the end zone.
“I wouldn’t say it was an unorthodox to us because we ran it all week. We perfected it as much as we could in five days,” said Skattebo, who had 61 yards rushing on 12 carries. “Our guys paid attention all week. Some probably thought it was silly that we were doing that all week. But is it silly now?”
Three players took snaps at quarterback. Tight end Jalin Conyers got the start before regular starter Trenton Bourget came in on the second play.
Skattebo took snaps out of the Wildcat formation, including on the touchdown to Badger. Skattebo rolled right and found Badger in single coverage in the end zone with 1:59 remaining in the third quarter. It was the only pass Skattebo completed in three attempts.
The drive, which went 99 yards in 14 plays and lasted 7:11, put the Sun Devils up by two scores.
Badger had 11 receptions for 109 yards. The junior broke three tackles on a 30-yard screen pass midway through the second quarter to get them into field goal range. Four plays later, Dario Longhetto connected from 29 yards to make it 3-0.
After UCLA got within 10-7 on Logan Loya's 16-yard touchdown from Collin Schlee with 9:47 remaining, the Sun Devils went 12 plays in 75 yards, culminating in Skattebo's TD run.
“Give Arizona State credit. They did a good job of protecting them, running some different formations and some different things to change where the pocket was, running some unconventional things," UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. "We had prepared for it. But we didn’t do a good enough job of containing that aspect of that they did, so they kept themselves on the field.”
The Bruins got inside the red zone twice in the first half, but came up empty. Carson Steele was denied the end zone on a fourth-and-goal run up the middle from the Arizona State 1. On the next drive, Steele again was held for no gain, this time on fourth-and-1 at the Sun Devils 9.
Steele, who had 51 yards on 14 carries, was then stopped short on fourth-and-2 from the Arizona State 37 early in the fourth quarter.
Schlee was 11-of-17 passing for 117 yards along with 51 yards rushing.
Arizona State: This is a huge win in Dillingham's first season in Tempe. The Sun Devils came close in losses to Southern California and Washington, but were able to put it together despite the injuries they have sustained this season.
UCLA: With an uninspiring effort, the pressure will increase on Kelly going into next week's rivalry game against USC.
Arizona State: Travels to Washington State next Saturday.
UCLA: At Southern California next Saturday in the annual Crosstown Showdown.
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