LOS ANGELES – Mike Bercovici collapsed on the Coliseum turf after he released his final throw for Arizona State, cramping up from dehydration.
Jaelen Strong wasn’t sure he could get to it, but he sprinted and leaped, not quite sure how he ended up with the ball in the end zone, his teammates mobbing him.
When Bercovici and Strong finally got up, the Sun Devils celebrated an improbable comeback capped by an unbelievable finish.
“You never know what this game can come down to,” said Strong, who caught the 46-yard TD pass as time expired.
Arizona State scored three touchdowns in the final 3:53 to shock No. 16 Southern California 38-34 on Saturday night.
Bercovici capped his 510-yard, five-touchdown passing performance with his third scoring pass to Strong, who slipped in front of USC’s Hayes Pullard at the goal line and pulled in the Hail Mary, walking into the end zone stunningly untouched.
“I’ll be honest, it was a little bit of a prayer,” said Bercovici, the San Fernando Valley product making his second start in front of dozens of friends and family.
“I just immediately fell to the floor. I saw Jaelen take a step in the end zone, and I don’t think I could have made it down 50 yards to the end zone. It was an indescribable feeling. I’ve got people telling me, ‘Get up, get up, get up!’ But all I wanted to do was run upstairs to my mom and give her a big hug.”
A week after giving up 62 points in a humbling loss to UCLA, the Sun Devils (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) celebrated their first win at the Coliseum since 1999.
“That was the most unbelievable night I’ve ever had in coaching,” Arizona State’s Todd Graham said. “When he caught that ball, my heart stopped. You can be where we were last week, and be here this week.”
Arizona State burned its three timeouts in the third quarter, but got the ball back at its 28 with 23 seconds left. Bercovici hit Gary Chambers for 26 yards before launching his final throw into a thicket of USC defenders.
“I saw the ball in the air, and the first thing I thought was, ‘I’m going to get this,’ ” said Strong, who had 10 catches for 202 yards.
Bercovici followed up his record-setting, 488-yard passing performance against UCLA with an even bigger night, also hitting Strong for a 77-yard TD midway through the second quarter while filling in for injured Taylor Kelly.
Cody Kessler passed for 273 yards for the Trojans (3-2, 2-1), who led 34-25 with 3 minutes to play. USC recovered two onside kicks and got a 53-yard TD run by Buck Allen in the final minutes, but its pass defense – which hadn’t allowed a TD pass all season – repeatedly came unglued.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.