ASU Stuns USC on a Hail Mary TD

LOS ANGELES - In one of the wildest Saturdays in college football history, Arizona State delivered some of its own dramatics, stunning USC 38-34 on a come from behind, Hail Mary touchdown pass at the Coliseum.

Just when things seemed the bleakest for Arizona State on Saturday, Mike Bercovici and the Sun Devils found a way. Trailing by two with less than 20 seconds to play, Bercovici connected with wide receiver Gary Chambers for a gain of 26 down to the USC 36 yard line.

Without any timeouts, Bercovici quickly spiked the ball with seven seconds remaining as Arizona State gathered for one last chance at a comeback.

Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell called for a play the Sun Devils work on each week at practice, with receivers Jaelen Strong, D.J. Foster, and Cameron Smith flanked wide to the right.

Bercovici took the snap, shuffled to his right and unloaded a prayer toward the end zone as 70,115 fans collectively held their breath.

Three Trojan defenders converged around the spot only to see a streaking Strong cut in front to haul in the pass as he crossed the goal line to secure the come-from-behind win in the Coliseum.

Disbelief, elation, shock, all captured in one play.

“When he caught that ball, my heart stopped,” said Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham afterwards. “That’s what this game is all about. You can be where you were last week and be here this week. So proud of this team.”

“I’ve never been able to throw a Hail Mary before,” added Bercovici. “I’d like to think I’d be good at it. To be honest I didn’t think I threw it well. It looked like a duck but my God, I didn’t know what happened to be honest.”

Just like that, a season that seemed to be teetering on the brink had been resurrected.

“I saw the ball in the air and the first thing I thought was I’m going to get this,” said Strong. “At first I thought ‘I don’t know if I can get to it,’ but I put my head down and kept running and I went up and grabbed it and I landed in the end zone. I don’t even remember it honestly, I blacked out.”

After scoring 15 points in the first half, the Sun Devils (4-1, 2-1) were stuck in neutral for most of the second half, struggling to move the ball with any consistency against the stingy USC defense.

Trailing 27-18, Bercovici and the offense took over at their own two yard line with 6:30 to play. The Sun Devils moved 98 yards on 10 plays as Bercovici connected with Foster on a 21 yard touchdown pass to pull ASU within two points.

Following a 53-yard Javorius Allen touchdown run just 53 seconds later, the Sun Devils found themselves down by nine and nearly out of time.

But Bercovici responded with a 73 yard touchdown pass to Cam Smith on the first play of ASU’s next drive, setting up the dramatic final two minutes.

After failing to recover an onside kick for a second time in the quarter, ASU’s defense, which had struggled all night to contain the Trojans (3-2, 2-1) held for a three and out, giving the Sun Devils its final opportunity.

“The last play, if D.J. doesn’t make that TD, we don’t have that chance,” said Strong. “If Gary doesn't make that big play to set us up for the Hail Mary, we don’t have that chance. I just did what I was coached to do.”

“The most important part of that play is Tyler Sulka and him stopping the edge rusher,” added Bercovici. “They know we’re not running so they’re coming nice and heavy, but he did such a great job to give me the extra second to slide right and let it rip. And it didn’t drop.”

A week after throwing for 488 yards in ASU’s loss to UCLA, Mike Bercovici completed 27-45 passes for 510 yards and five touchdowns.

Perhaps most importantly, he and the ASU offense played turnover-free after sputtering the week before.

“For all those kids out there, everyone tells you to transfer or quit because you’re not getting to play,” said Graham. “Look at Mike Bercovici. He didn’t quit. He chose to stay a Sun Devil.

“He would have missed out on the greatest moment of his football career if he had transferred.”

Bercovici completed passes to eight didn’t receivers on Saturday, including Strong who caught 10 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

D.J. Foster, who struggled for a second consecutive week running the ball (13 yards on 10 carries), hauled in five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.

“You can talk about anyone individually,” said Graham. “From a team standpoint, the best win we’ve had since we’ve been here. It was the most incredible moment I’ve had in coaching.”

The win marked ASU’s first at the Coliseum since 1999, breaking a streak of seven consecutive losses to the Trojans in Los Angeles.

It also marked the Sun Devils’ second Hail Mary win against Head Coach Steve Sarkisian, who saw his Washington Huskies fall in the final seconds in Tempe in 2009 when Danny Sullivan spotted an open Chris McGaha for the game-winning score.

Arizona State heads into its bye week next week before returning home to face Stanford in a rematch of last season’s Pac-12 championship game at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday October 18th.

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