Reporting from Tempe, Ariz.
UCLA continued to fight on.
The Bruins were tossing passes around, trying to move the chains, challenging a fumble call. Basically, they were battling to the finish in the last minute.
Then they were finished. UCLA fans can start mulling over season-ticket plans for 2011.
Oh sure, the Bruins have one game left, a chance for some face saving by beating USC next Saturday. But a season with high expectations plummeted to the turf after Arizona State spotted the Bruins 17 points, then cruised to a 55-34 victory at Sun Devil Stadium on Friday.
The loss makes it impossible for the Bruins (4-7 overall, 2-6 in Pacific 10 Conference) to get bowl-eligible and leaves them with only one thing to play for … USC.
"All we've got left is USC, we've got to shoot for the bragging rights of Los Angeles," a dejected safety Rahim Moore said after a day of trying to catch up with Arizona State players.
UCLA will have to show a better side of itself than it did Friday. The Bruins scored the first 17 points of the game, then were carved up by quarterback Brock Osweiler, who threw for 321 yards and four touchdowns, and scored one rushing for to cap a day he started on the bench.
The last real gasp for the Bruins came on a fourth-and-goal at Arizona State one-yard line trailing, 24-20, in the third quarter. The plan was for running back Johnathan Franklin to jump over the pile and into the end zone. Instead he ran into a team picture of the Arizona State defense.
Moments later, Cameron Marshall was off on a 71-yard touchdown run and the Sun Devils' highlight-reel day was back on.
Franklin's decision to stay grounded didn't cost the Bruins the game, not with a defense that gave up 595 total yards.
Things were in motion once Steven Threet was injured and Osweiler entered.
"When he came in, we couldn't find the formula to stop him," Coach Rick Neuheisel said.
Osweiler completed 27 of 36 passes and had three first-half touchdown passes to give the Sun Devils (5-6, 3-5) a 21-20 halftime lead after being down, 17-0, in the first quarter.
"I flat-out got the offense together on the sideline and told them we were not losing this game," Osweiler said.
The UCLA defense helped with a tackling exhibition that allowed the Sun Devils three plays of 70 or more yards, resulting in two touchdowns and a field goal. Add to that Jamal Miles' 99-yard kickoff return, and the Bruins spent a good part of the day chasing guys around.
Arizona State was so dominant that the Sun Devils overcame 114 yards in penalties, which included five personal fouls.
"We've got to be a team that doesn't sit down for people," UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers said. "To sit at home and watch other teams playing in bowl games this year, that's going to hurt."
Moore has a solution.
"I won't watch them," he said.
The Bruins, who got 321 passing yards, three touchdown passes and one rushing score from Richard Brehaut, had expected to be headed to a bowl, a better one than the EagleBank Bowl they played in last season. Now showing progress is less tangible.
"This is a little bit of a step back," Neuheisel admitted.
For now, there is only one thing to look forward too.
"Nothing can make up for not making it to a bowl game," Ayers said. "But beating USC would help."