May 19, 2024

With USC and UCLA playing their final season in the Pac-12, The Times is revisiting the top five games in the history of each series. This week: UCLA-Arizona State.

Sept. 9, 1976: No. 17 UCLA 28, No. 3 Arizona State 10

UCLA coach Terry Donahue is carried off the field by Bruins players after UCLA defeated Nebraska.

UCLA coach Terry Donahue is carried off the field after a win in 1988.

(Reed Saxon / AP)

In Terry Donahue’s first game as the Bruins’ coach, the 32-year-old went up against veteran Sun Devils counterpart Frank Kush, whose winning percentage of .793 in college football was second only to Joe Paterno’s .836 at Penn State. UCLA was coming off a Rose Bowl triumph over top-ranked Ohio State in Dick Vermeil’s final game before heading to the Philadelphia Eagles. But Arizona State, coming off an unbeaten season that ended with a victory over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl, was an eight-point favorite during its second-to-last season as a member of the Western Athletic Conference. The buildup was more compelling than the game. Behind an offense that rolled up 509 yards and a defense that didn’t give up a touchdown until its reserves were in the game in the fourth quarter, the Bruins ran away with the first of Donahue’s school-record 151 victories.

Dec. 1, 2001: UCLA 52, Arizona State 42

Four days before the Bruins and Sun Devils had been scheduled to play at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 15, the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York shut down the sports world. UCLA went on to reschedule its first football game since the “Hurricane Bowl” loss to Miami three years earlier. This outcome was far more agreeable, even if it ended another depressing season under coach Bob Toledo. The Bruins had gone from 6-0 and ranked No. 4 nationally to unranked after a four-game losing streak that included a 27-0 loss to USC. Along the way, running back DeShaun Foster was suspended for driving a late-model sports utility vehicle that belonged to a television director close to the program. Quarterback Cory Paus was benched for this final game after having failed to disclose two drunk-driving arrests. In his place, fifth-year senior Scott McEwan completed 20 of 36 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns in the only start of his career.

Sept. 17, 1983: UCLA 26, Arizona State 26

Rick Neuheisel to Karl Dorrell … and do we have your full attention? That quarterback-wide receiver tandem would connect on two touchdown passes to help the Bruins rally after repeatedly falling behind. Neuheisel fired a 12-yard touchdown pass to Dorrell in the second quarter to pull UCLA into a 10-10 tie. After Arizona State eventually surged to a 26-10 lead, Neuheisel commenced the final comeback with another touchdown pass to Dorrell on fourth down. A two-point conversion followed before Neuheisel found Mike Young for a 19-yard touchdown pass and the Bruins completed another two-point conversion to tie the score with 1:36 left. The Sun Devils played it conservative the rest of the way, content with the tie. UCLA would shake off an 0-3-1 start to reach the Rose Bowl, where it routed Illinois. Neuheisel would later replace Dorrell as the head coach at their alma mater.

Oct. 4, 1986: No. 16 Arizona State, 16, No. 15 UCLA 9

Bad Pac-10 starts were nothing new for the Bruins. Over the previous four years, they had gone 0-2-2 in their conference openers. They had also gone on to reach the Rose Bowl game three times, winning on every occasion. So there wasn’t widespread worry when UCLA opened with another dud against the Sun Devils, who managed the game’s only touchdown early in the fourth quarter. But Bruins safety Craig Rutledge had a premonition when he said, “As good as the conference is this year, you won’t win it with two losses.” UCLA sustained that second loss in November against Stanford, finishing conference play with a 5-2-1 record. At 5-1-1, Arizona State would win the Pac-10 and make its first appearance in the Rose Bowl game, where it beat Michigan, 22-15.

Nov. 12, 2005: No. 14 UCLA 45, Arizona State 35

UCLA quarterback Drew Olson (14) celebrates a 30-27 overtime win over Stanford on Saturday.

Drew Olson, shown here celebrating a win over Stanford, led UCLA past Arizona State in 2005.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

A week after the Bruins’ hopes of an unbeaten season were dashed during a 52-14 loss to Arizona, the college football world wondered whether they would go into full collapse. Instead, they showed steely resolve in pulling away from the Sun Devils after a 28-28 halftime tie. Quarterback Drew Olson’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Breazell in the third quarter put UCLA ahead to stay. There would be no late drama in what had been a season of comebacks, the Bruins eventually building a 14-point lead on the way to their final victory before getting blown out by USC and topping Northwestern in the Sun Bowl. Olson threw for a personal-best 510 yards and tied his previous high with five touchdown passes.

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