Whoo-hoo! What a fourth quarter!!!
As we watched the ASU Sun Devils battle #16 USC in the LA Coliseum, our optimism surged and waned as the lead changed hands throughout the first three quarters. By the start of the fourth quarter, ASU was down by 9 and had used all their time-outs. The consensus of the audience at my house was, “Wasting all their time-outs will cost ASU the game.”
The Sun Devils fought their way to a TD with a handful of minutes left on the clock. Their on-side attempt on the kickoff ended up in Trojan hands, and USC soon got a TD of their own. Arizona State answered quickly with yet another TD. So they were back where they had been two minutes earlier, but now had only a little under 3 minutes to get a field goal to win.
They managed to hold the Trojans on the next series, but less than a minute remained in the game. After a play or two, the question was whether they had enough time left to set up the field goal that would put them ahead by one. We expected ASU QB Mike Bercovici to throw toward a receiver near the sidelines to stop the clock; the FOX Sports commentators expressed the same thought. Everyone – except the Sun Devils on the field and coach Todd Graham – was shocked to see Bercovici throw a huge arcing pass toward the end zone. The ball looked overthrown and destined to be intercepted by a waiting USC player. But ASU’s Jaelen Strong made a giant leap to capture the ball, landing with one foot on the goal line with one second on the clock! As the other foot came down, the clock ran out. Absolutely amazing on its own, but even more so considering ASU’s crushing 35 point loss last week to UCLA and that Bercovici had been the back-up QB just two weeks ago. (Even in last week’s defeat Bercovici had a great performance, setting school records. His stats were great this week too. Makes you wonder what Coach Graham will do when Taylor Kelly’s injured foot is healed.)
The only other Arizona State football game that I’ve seen that was as exciting was the 1978 meeting between these same two teams, when ASU was still in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). ASU won that match too (20-7), against what at that time was a much stronger PAC-8 opponent. Our cheering from Sun Devil Stadium could be heard at the opposite side of the Tempe campus long after the game was over. Tonight, in Trojan territory, USC fans left quickly and quietly.
Six teams in the top 25 lost today. ASU’s main rival, the University of Arizona, toppled #2 Oregon. ASU and Arizona will meet in the annual “Duel in the Desert” in November.