By JOE REEDY – AP Sports Writer
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) – Five offensive linemen and facing one of the best defenses in the country, Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham knew he had to be unconventional if the Sun Devils were to have any shot at competing against UCLA.
They didn’t just compete, they won.
Using a variety of different formations, Arizona State kept the Bruins off balance Saturday night in a 17-7 victory at the Rose Bowl.
The Sun Devils (3-7, 2-5 PAC-12) were without 14 players, including five offensive linemen, still managed to rebound from last week’s 55-3 loss at No. 18 Utah and defeat the Bruins, who were 18 1/2-point options, according to FanDuel sportsbook.
“I wanted 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 didn’t.”
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Arizona State went with a swing gate formation often and had one play during the first half that was a combination of swing gate and fly wedge formations.
The use of the swing gate came from Dillingham’s meetings with former longtime Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who is a special adviser to the Arizona State team. Lewis told Dillingham about a game in which Jim Fassel often used the swing gate when Fassel was the head coach at Utah and Lewis was coaching linebackers at New Mexico.
Lewis also has experience running the gate rush as well, as he and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson used it a few times in Cincinnati in 2014 and ’15.
“I’m like, ‘OK, if this guy was an NFL head coach, and you and Hue Jackson can do it, why can’t we do it here?’ Kudos to the players for believing in something unique and goofy. And not just saying ‘Oh coach doesn’t think we can win’,” Dillingham said.
Cam Skattebo rushed and ran for touchdowns in the second half. The junior running back threw a 25-yard touchdown pass 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 side and into the end zone.
“I wouldn’t say it was uneven for us because we ran it all week. We managed to make it as far as we could in five days,” said Skattebo, who had 61 yards rushing on 12 carries. “Our boys paid attention all week. Some of them 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 Trenton Bourget came in for the second game.
Skattebo took a look out of the Wildcat formation, including on the touch down to Badger. Skattebo rolled right and found Badger in solo coverage in the end zone with 1:59 left 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 run from Collin Schlee with 9:47 left, the Sun Devils went 12 plays for 75 yards, culminating in Skattebo’s TD run.
“Give Arizona State credit. They did a good job of defending them, running some different formations and changing some different things where the pocket was, running some unusual things,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “We were prepared for him. But we didn’t do a good enough job of containing that aspect of what 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 was again 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 rushing for 117 yards along with 51 rushing yards.
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 pull it together despite their injuries this season.
UCLA: With a lackluster effort, the pressure will increase on Kelly heading 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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