LOS ANGELES, CA-The Arizona State football team stayed unbeaten in conference play on the road and may have saved their season, beating USC on the final play as wide receiver Jaelen Strong reeled in Mike Bercovici’s Hail Mary on the game’s final play as the Sun Devils (4-1, 2-1) escaped with a 38-34 win over the Trojans (3-2, 2-1) who could never land the knockout punch Saturday night.
Here are five things we learned in the win.
1. A (Sun) Devil of an Effort…after Buck Allen’s 53-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes play USC led 35-24. Playing without any timeouts the Sun Devils offense and defense helped engineer a 13-point comeback leaving most of the 70,115 in attendance heading for the exits in either anger or completely stunned silence. ASU, for the most part, has been a resilient bunch under Graham and it was epitomized in a game which had all the making of a Sun Devil loss. “There was never any give up or quit in them,” Graham said after. “These kids have faith and character and love each other.” A true brotherhood. A common theme preached by Graham and his coaches.
2. Mike’s Magic…if Saturday was Mike Bercovici’s final start of the season what a way to go out. 27-45 for 510 yards and five touchdowns. He didn’t turn the ball over and threw for 239 in the deciding fourth quarter, including 46 on the final play which sent the Sun Devils streaming onto the field in celebration. “I’ve never been able to throw a Hail Mary before,” Bercovici said. “To be honest I didn’t think I threw it well. It looked like a duck…I didn’t know what happened to be honest.” It was a nice reward for a player who has put the team-first since arriving in Tempe four years ago. His 77-yard touchdown strike to Strong (10 catches, 202 yards, three touchdowns) in the second quarter was the longest since 2010.
3. Safety in Numbers…junior safety Jordan Simone deserves a game ball, as well. His eye-popping 20 tackles (the most for an ASU player in 26 years) came just over a week after struggling in the Devils’ home loss to UCLA. His partner-in-crime in the back half of the secondary Damarious Randall had his best game of the season registering 13 tackles and breaking a pass.
4. Nothing Special…the broken record continues for Graham and his staff on special teams. USC speedster Nelson Agholor opened the scoring with a 53-yard punt return for touchdown in the first quarter. It was the second consecutive game ASU has allowed a punt or kickoff return for touchdown. Missed tackles were a common theme on Agholor’s return and throughout the night as Allen (143 rushing yards) and Justin Davis (67) made several Devils miss in space.
5. Cardinal Rule…ASU has a bye this week, Pac-12 defending champion Stanford comes to Tempe after the week off. The Cardinal man-handled ASU in both meetings last season, most recently the Pac-12 Championship Game in December. David Shaw’s physical, sound team will most certainly bring their A-game to Tempe. Such is life in the Pac-12.