To quote famed Arizona State alumnus Al Michaels, “Do you believe in miracles?”
If you’re a fan of the Sun Devils, you have to.
Mike Bercovici, making just his second collegiate start, hit Jaelen Strong on a 46-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass with no time remaining to lift ASU to one of the most improbable wins in the program’s history, a 38-34 victory at USC.
Bercovici finished 27-of-45 for 510 yards and five touchdown passes. Strong finished with 10 catches for 202 yards and three scores.
Three of ASU’s scores came in the final 3:53 of the ball game. Bercovici hit D.J. Foster on a 21-yard touchdown pass to pull ASU to within two points at 27-25. But USC’s Buck Allen answered, busting off a 53-yard touchdown run just 51 seconds later to make it a two-score game.
The Sun Devils had no timeouts remaining due to some shoddy defensive alignments early in the second half. It didn’t faze Bercovici, who hit Cameron Smith on a 73-yard touchdown pass on the very next play.
USC still could have run the clock out, but couldn’t earn a first down. Head coach Steve Sarkisian opted to have quarterback Cody Kessler pooch punt instead of using regular punter Kris Albarado. Kessler shanked the kick off the side of his foot and ASU took over at their own 27-yard line with just :23 remaining.
Bercovici’s first pass was incomplete, intended for Smith on the sideline, but he found Gary Chambers in a soft spot in USC’s zone on second down for a 26-yard gain to the USC 46.
And then, the Hail Mary.
With the win, the Sun Devils earned their first win at the Coliseum since 1999, bounced back from their ugliest loss in a long time last week against UCLA and stayed relevant in the Pac-12 South race.
-Bercovici was spectacular. There’s no other way to say it. The junior got no help from his running game (more on that later), and he won the game against a very talented USC defense with a completely one-dimensional offense. Simply amazing.
-Oh yeah, Strong is pretty good, too. But there were other receivers who stepped up, as well. Smith scored a big touchdown. Chambers had the huge first-down catch on the last touchdown drive. Ellis Jefferson made a great diving catch in the fourth quarter.
-On defense, ASU was improved over last week, but that’s not saying much. One player stood out among the rest, as junior safety Jordan Simone had 20 tackles and was a vocal leader on the field the entire night.
-ASU’s running game was non-existent. The Devils had just 30 yards on 22 carries. D.J. Foster was shut down, gaining only 13 yards on 10 carries.
-Todd Graham’s timeout management was not good, either, but it was out of necessity. ASU’s young defense struggled to line up properly on a couple of plays early in the second half, and Graham, who is known to use his TOs on defense, had to burn two early. It didn’t ultimately matter, but it’s something that has to be cleaned up moving forward.
-What a time for ASU play-by-play man Tim Healey to reach a career milestone. Healey’s call on Saturday night was his 200th with the Sun Devils.
HE SAID IT
“For all those young people out there, they all tell you should transfer and quit. Don’t ever listen to that. Mike Bercovici stayed. If he left, he would have missed out on the greatest moment of his football life. That was awesome.” — Todd Graham on Mike Bercovici, who stayed at ASU despite losing the quarterback battle to Taylor Kelly in 2012.
Life doesn’t get easier for ASU. After a bye week, they’ll take on Stanford at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 18.