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No. 20 UCLA hosts Arizona State in pivotal Pac-12 matchup

September 30, 2021 GMT
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) leaps between Fresno State defensive tackle Leonard Payne Jr. (55) and linebacker Tyson Maeva (58) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) leaps between Fresno State defensive tackle Leonard Payne Jr. (55) and linebacker Tyson Maeva (58) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) leaps between Fresno State defensive tackle Leonard Payne Jr. (55) and linebacker Tyson Maeva (58) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels are the top two dual-threat quarterbacks in the Pac-12. They will also be the focal point in a pivotal South Division game at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

Thompson-Robinson is tied for the conference lead with nine touchdown passes and has the No. 20 Bruins (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) off to their best start since 2015, while Daniels leads the conference in completion percentage (72.6%) among starting quarterbacks.

Both have been just as lethal when they run. Daniels is averaging 6.9 yards per carry and has two touchdowns. Thompson-Robinson also has two rushing TDs and has the most rushing attempts among quarterbacks (45).

Arizona State coach Herm Edwards — whose team is also 3-0, 1-0 — summed up the matchup saying trying to stop both quarterbacks is going to be a tough task.

“Great athletes, you’re not going to stop them. I mean you can try to contain him and hold him to a minimum but you have to understand your rush lanes,” he said. “Anytime you run by a quarterback, our quarterback does the same thing, you run past them up field and you open windows for the guy to escape. If you watch the last couple of times that quarterbacks ran on us, look at the rush lanes, very obvious, you run past the quarterback, you got a problem.”

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UCLA coach Chip Kelly said one point of emphasis this week has been making sure the defensive line is disciplined in the rush lanes to prevent things from breaking down.

“It’s the unscheduled runs that can really hurt you,” he said. “It may be a called pass play so everybody’s in coverage, matched up with whoever they’re matched up with, they may have five receivers out into a pattern and then if the rushing lanes break down or the contain that helped the rush breaks down, then he’s really dangerous.”

STATE OF THE SOUTH

Even though it is only the second conference game for both teams, Saturday’s winner will take over as the South Division favorite. Edwards is trying not to make this game more important than the others.

“As long as you continue to win games in the Pac-12 you control your destiny. When you don’t, then you’re counting on other people to lose and you don’t want to put yourself in that position,” he said. “To me they’re all big, that’s just the way it works. That’s the bottom line, we’ve got nine games in the Pac-12, how many can you win?”

GROUNDING IT OUT

Arizona State is averaging 211.5 rushing yards per game, which is second in the conference. It goes up against a UCLA run defense that is sixth nationally at 64 yards per game but hasn’t faced a rushing attack as deep as the Sun Devils’.

Rachaad White is seventh in rushing yards (262 yards) and third in touchdowns (six). DeaMonte Trayanum is expected to play this week after missing the past three games due to a sprained ankle. Freshman Daniyel Ngata averaged 59.7 yards per game in Trayanum’s absence.

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CHARBONNET BACK ON TRACK

UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet was held to 19 yards against Fresno State, but bounced back last week with 118 yards at Stanford. The junior — who transferred from Michigan — has three 100-yard games and is third in the Pac-12 with 360 rushing yards.

Teammate Brittain Brown is sixth with 263. Both players have 47 carries through four games.

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

The turnovers. Arizona State’s defense has forced a nation’s-best 40 in its last 15 games. UCLA has a plus-3 turnover margin, but is well aware that fumbles or interceptions do not bode well. The Bruins committed 12 of their 13 turnovers in losses last season.

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