PASADENA, Calif. – From his shoulder pads to his socks, Taylor Kelly’s all-white Arizona State uniform was flecked with verdant stains from the Rose Bowl turf.
Kelly could get used to this look. With his impressive first half and his defense’s two big late stands against UCLA, the Sun Devils are Pac-12 South champions for the first time.
And they’ll get to play Stanford for another roll in the Pasadena grass on New Year’s Day.
Kelly passed for 225 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 99 yards and another score, and No. 19 Arizona State hung on in the fourth quarter to clinch the division title with a 38-33 victory over No. 14 UCLA on Saturday night.
Marion Grice had 95 yards rushing and 72 yards receiving for the surging Sun Devils (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12), who will face the vaunted Cardinal in the league title game in two weeks. If Arizona State beats Arizona in the Territorial Cup game next week, the Sun Devils will host Stanford – a possibility almost nobody anticipated just a couple of weeks ago.
“We got a chance to play for a trip to the Rose Bowl, which I’ve dreamed of all my life,” Kelly said in the Rose Bowl tunnel. “We’ve got a couple more to go, and then we can be there.”
Jaelen Strong had six catches for 91 yards and a score, but Arizona State blew most of a 22-point halftime lead over the Bruins (8-3, 5-3). The Sun Devils scored just three points in the second half, but their defense held UCLA scoreless on its final two drives to wrap up their sixth consecutive victory.
“I’ve been doing this for 28 years, and that’s the most impressive display of heart by a team that I’ve ever seen,” said Arizona State coach Todd Graham.
Brett Hundley passed for 253 yards and two TDs for UCLA.
Arizona State earned the right to play for its first Rose Bowl in 17 years.