Arizona State defeats USC, 38-34, on final play

Arizona State defeats USC, 38-34, on final play
Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici is swarmed by teammates after completing a 46-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaelen Strong on the game's final play to defeat USC on Saturday night at the Coliseum. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Arizona State used three touchdowns in the final four minutes of the game, including a 46-yard pass play as time expired, to hand No. 16 USC a devastating 38-34 loss.

Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici passed for 510 yards and five touchdowns in the comeback victory. Arizona State improves to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in Pac-12 Conference play.


The Trojans (3-2, 2-1) appeared to have the game in hand on a couple of occasions, including with 3:02 left in the fourth quarter when they took a 34-25 lead on a 53-yard run by Javorius Allen. That score came after Arizona State pulled to within two points and attempted an onside kick that Trojans tight end Randall Telfer recovered with a leaping catch as he was hit by an Arizona State player.

The Sun Devils, who finished with 540 yards of offense, answered back with 2:43 left when Bercovici connected with Cameron Smith for a 73-yard pass play for a touchdown. Arizona State forced the Trojans to punt after three rushing plays for minus-two yards and took over at its own 27-yard line.

After Bercovici, who was 27-of-45 passing, completed a 26-yard pass to Gary Chambers, he found Strong on the game's final play to finish off the upset. Strong finished with 10 receptions for 202 yards and three touchdowns.

USC quarterback Cody Kessler completed 28 of 45 passes for 273 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He did score on an eight-yard run early in the fourth quarter to give the Trojans a 27-18 lead.

Allen rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns in 29 carries for the Trojans, who finished with 493 yards of offense. He also had four receptions for 86 yards while teammate Nelson Agholor had nine catches for 84 yards. Algholor also returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown.

Arizona State 38, USC 34 (final)

Arizona State will start from its own 28 with 23 seconds left.

After an incomplete pass, quarterback Mike Bercovici completes a 26-yard pass to Gary Chambers to the USC 46.

After another incomplete pass, Jaelen Strong pulls in a 46-yard touchdown pass from Bercovici on the final play to give Arizona State the victory.


USC will start from its own 44 after recovering an onside kick.

Javorius Allen runs for -2 yards in three plays, forcing a Trojans punt with 23 seconds left. Cody Kessler's punt goes 18 yards. Again, we're not making this up.


USC 34, Arizona State 32 (2:43 left in the fourth quarter)


Arizona State will start from its own 27.

Mike Bercovici completes a 73-yard pass to Cameron Smith for a touchdown on the first play of the drive.

We're not making this up.


USC 34, Arizona State 25 (3:02 left in the fourth quarter)

USC will start from its own 49 after recovering an onside kick.

On the second play of the drive, Javorius Allen runs 53 yards for a touchdown.


USC 27, Arizona State 25 (3:53 left in the fourth quarter)

Arizona State will start from its own two-yard line.

Scott Felix makes his first sack of the season, but a flag comes out and Chris Hawkins is called for holding -- which gives Arizona State a first down.

Barcovici completes a 28-yard pass to Jaelen Strong over Kevon Seymour. Seymour is called for pass interference.

Seymour rebounds with a nice pass breakup on second down.

Barcovici's pass on third down falls incomplete, Seymour breaks it up again.

Fourth and ten, Barcovici completes a pass to Jaelen Strong.

Felix makes his second sack of the game -- for a six-yard loss -- on the next play.

Barcovici does not look like a backup quarterback here. He completes a tough pass for 17-yards before firing a touchdown pass to D.J. Foster.


USC will start on its own 20-yard line.

USC is going to its running game to run time off the clock.

A point of emphasis this week during practice was for USC's tailbacks to break more tackles at the second level. Both Justin Davis and Javorius Allen appear to be doing a better job of that tonight.

Allen has rushed 85 yards and a touchdown in 21 carries. Davis has rushed 65 yards in 13 carries.

USC is forced into a third and two on Arizona State's 30-yard line. Cody Kessler throws a sideline pass to Nelson Agholor who is tackled for a five-yard loss.

Coach Steve Sarkisian once again sends Kessler out on fourth down. To punt or to throw -- that is the question.

Kessler punts again.


The announced attendance at the Coliseum is 70,115.

Arizona State will start on its own 25-yard line.

Mike Bercovici completes a 15-yard pass to start the drive, but USC's defense is able to stop the Sun Devils' momentum after the long completion and forces Arizona State to punt.


USC 27, Arizona State 18 (13:42 left in the fourth quarter)

USC will start from its own 21-yard line.

The Trojans, facing third and two, hand off to Javorius Allen who rushes 15-yards to end the third quarter.

Allen rushes 36 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Facing third and eight, Cody Kessler completes a nine-yard pass to Allen. The Trojans have a first and goal.

Kessler scrambles and stretches across the goal line for a USC touchdown.

Great effort there by Kessler who took a defender one on one and kept pushing until he was able to extend across the goal line.

Andre Heidari's extra point is good.


Kyle Middlebrooks returns the kick off 32 yards for Arizona State. The Sun Devils will start at their own 32-yard line.

Interesting coaching strategy, as Arizona State Coach Todd Graham calls his final timeout of the game with two minutes and 25 seconds left in the third quarter.

Mike Bercovici finds his favorite receiver, Jaelen Strong, for a 14-yard completion on third down.

Arizona State punts after a controversial call by the officials. Officials called an incomplete pass, when in fact it looked complete and as though J.R. Tavai punched the ball out of the receivers hands and out of bounds.


USC 20, Arizona State 18 (3:45 left in the third quarter)

JuJu Smith returns the kick 19 yards. The Trojans will start from their own 38-yard line.

Justin Davis rushes for seven yards. Watching Davis, he seems exceptionally good at falling forward for extra yards when he is tackled.

Nelson Agholor makes a great 24-yard catch over his defender.

Steven Mitchell catches a seven-yard pass from Cody Kessler. It is Mitchell's first career reception.

USC pulling out the wildcat. The ball is snapped directly to Justin Davis, but it results in a four-yard loss.

Kessler's pass is incomplete on third down. USC is eight of 18 on third-down conversions.

Andre Heidari kicks a 33-yard field goal.


Arizona State 18, USC 17 (8:23 left in the third quarter)

Arizona State will start from its own 20-yard line.

Sun Devils' false start. As I mentioned earlier in the game, the Sun Devils are the least penalized team in the Pac-12. USC has five penalties for 29 yards. Arizona State has three penalties for 26 yards.

Mike Bercovici completes a 29-yard pass to D.J. Foster.

Bercovici then completes a 20-yard pass to Gary Chambers over Adoree' Jackson.

Antwaun Woods picks up a roughing the passer penalty with Arizona State inside USC's 20-yard line. This was probably a case of Woods getting a bit too excited to take down Bercovici, his former high school teammate and best friend.


Arizona State has a third and goal situation. Bercovici fires into the end zone, but a flag comes flying from the official and Leon McQuay is called for a pass interference penalty, which gives the Sun Devils a first down.

USC's defense forces another third and goal. Bercovici's pass is high and flies out of bounds.

Arizona State kicks a 20-yard field goal.


USC has the ball to start the second half. The Trojans will start from their own 35-yard line.

USC threw the ball its first offensive series of the game. Now in the first offensive series of the second half, the Trojans are opting to run the ball on the first two plays before re-establishing the passing game.

Third and three and USC picks up a false-start penalty called on Chad Wheeler, which sets up a third-and-nine situation.

Cody Kessler finds a wide open Randall Telfer for a first down. Telfer has caught two passes for 20 yards.

Kessler is sacked by Marcus Hardison. That's the third time Kessler has been sacked tonight.

Arizona State calls a timeout.

Here are some USC stats:

Cody Kessler has completed 20 of 33 passes for 190 yards.

Javorius Allen has rushed 41 yards and scored a touchdown in 16 carries. He has also caught two passes for 36 yards.

Nelson Agholor has caught six passes for 62 yards.

Coach Steve Sarkisian opts to go for it on fourth and eight from Arizona State's 39-yard line. Kessler punts the ball, and it bounces into the end zone for a touchback.

Kessler should perhaps now have a "P" listed next to "QB" on the roster.


A couple of observations from the first half:

USC dropped at least four passes, at least one of which would have been a touchdown and another would have been a first down into Arizona State territory.

Coach Steve Sarkisian's play calling. It's obvious the game plan was to pass the ball, which deviates from the game plan in the Trojans' first four games.

Keep Sarkisian's call to go for it on fourth and two on Arizona State's 23-yard line in mind. USC did not convert and Arizona State threw a touchdown pass the next play. Andre Heidari could have kicked a field goal there for three points and a 10-7 lead.


USC 17, Arizona State 15 (14 seconds left in the second quarter)

USC will start from its own 18-yard line.

Cody Kessler completes a 21-yard pass to Nelson Agholor, a 10-yard pass to JuJu Smith, and then a 12-yard pass to George Farmer. Coach Steve Sarkisian calls the plays for the Trojans, and this is easily the most passing we've seen from them this season.

Justin Davis rushes for 16 yards on the next play.

This is an example of Sarkisian using the passing game to setup the running game. In USC's previous games, it seemed to be the other way around.

USC stalls on Arizona State's 18-yard line.

Andre Heidari kicks a 35-yard field goal.


Arizona State will start on its own 20-yard line.

Mike Bercovici completes a 14-yard pass to D.J. Foster over Kevon Seymour. The Sun Devils' offense seems to be picking up the pace.

Bercovici is aiming strictly for Seymour's side of the field on this drive, but his next two passes fall incomplete.

Linebacker Anthony Sarao drops into coverage on third down and swats down Bercovici's pass.

Arizona State punts.


Arizona State 15, USC 14 (2:49 left in the second quarter)

USC will start from its own 33-yard line.

The Trojans have four dropped passes as Justin Davis gets in on the dropped-pass party.

Kris Albarado punts the ball to the one-yard line, but the punt is nullified because Arizona State ran into the punter. The penalty gives USC a first down.

First and ten for USC from Arizona State's 45-yard line.

Kessler finds a wide-open Javorius Allen who came flying out of the backfield. It's a 36-yard catch and run for Allen, who takes USC to Arizona State's five-yard line.

Third and goal, Allen is stopped short of the end zone.

Fourth and goal, and Coach Steve Sarkisian is going for it, again. Allen crosses the goal line for a USC touchdown.

Andre Heidari's extra point is good.


Arizona State 15, USC, 7 (7:17 left in the second quarter)

It is a sparse and quiet crowd at the Coliseum this evening. There's not a lot of energy.

Adoree' Jackson returns the kick-off 24-yards to USC's own 26-yard line.

Aundrey Walker is in at right tackle for USC. Walker is earning more playing time since returning from his ankle injury suffered last season.

Javorius Allen drops a pass from Cody Kessler. That's the second obvious drop from an open Trojans receiver, since Darreus Rogers dropped a pass in the first quarter.

JuJu Smith catches a four-yard pass to give USC a first down. Smith extended his arm as he was getting pushed out of bounds to make sure he got across the marker.

On third and one, USC inserts both Walker and Zach Banner on the offensive line for Allen to gain one yard and a first down.

Kessler scrambling, completes a pass to Nelson Agholor -- who shows a great burst of athleticism to pick up a USC first down after dodging a couple of defenders.

Kessler fires down field for a wide-open Darreus Rogers, who drops his second pass of the game -- and this time, it is a couple yards short of the end zone.

Maybe we are seeing in this game why Rogers has not been targeted more in USC's previous games? Though it is odd to see these drops from Rogers, who rarely ever drops a pass in practice. He is known for great hands.

Kessler's pass on third down is knocked down by an Arizona State defensive lineman and Sarkisian opts to go for it on fourth down from Arizona State's 24-yard line. Kessler's pass falls incomplete.

Mark this down as a game-changing play-call by Sarkisian.

Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici fires down field on the first snap and completes a 77-yard pass to Jaelen Strong for a touchdown.

Bercovici then completes a two-point conversion.


USC 7, Arizona State 7 (11:41 left in the second quarter)

Arizona State will start from its own 27-yard line.

Delvon Simmons hits quarterback Mike Bercovici, whose pass falls incomplete.

Bercovici completes a 16-yard pass. Linebacker Su'a Cravens had to drop back into coverage and was beat on the play.

Arizona State receiver Ellis Jefferson slips past Adoree' Jackson to catch a 27-yard pass.

Jackson jumps offsides with Arizona State inside the red zone.

Bercovici completes an easy touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong, safety Gerald Bowman was crossed up and fell on the play.

Arizona State's extra point is good.


USC's defense did not look good on that entire series. The Trojans are using a rotation for part of their front seven, defensive lineman Greg Townsend Jr. is included in the rotation.


USC will start from its own five-yard line.

Who said Cody Kessler can't scramble?

Kessler gained 13 yards on third down. He did not appear to have an open receiver.

Kessler is leveled from the blind side on the next play by an Arizona State defender.

That ends the first quarter.

Kessler hands off to Justin Davis to start the second quarter. Davis rushes eight yards in his first carry of the game. Davis had a stand-out game against Arizona State last season, but it got lost in the mix with the poor defensive performance and firing of coach Lane Kiffin.

USC punts.


Arizona State starts on its own 20-yard line.

Su'a Cravens makes a tackle in the back field, again. Arizona State loses two yards on the play.

Cravens has made four tackles and a sack -- 3.5 are for a loss.

Antwaun Woods got a hold of his former teammate and best friend, Mike Bercovici, and holds him to a three-yard gain. Bercovici and Woods attended Woodland Hills Taft High.

Linebacker Hayes Pullard makes a big third down tackle for the Trojans and Arizona State will punt.


USC will start from its own 34-yard line.

Receiver Steven Mitchell is in the slot for the Trojans and drops a pass from Cody Kessler.

Javorius Allen rushes for nine yards - his first long carry of the game.

Kessler completes a pass to Randall Telfer and then George Farmer. Five USC players have caught a pass.

Kessler is sacked on third down.

USC punts.

Good thing for USC's defense, it held Arizona State to a three and out on the Sun Devils' last offensive possession. It is going to be a tough day of defense for the Trojans in the heat and with the Sun Devils' up-tempo offense. Time to rest is crucial.
Arizona State will start from its own 25-yard line.
USC's Su'a Cravens sacks Mike Bercovici on third down. Cravens is already having a big game for the Trojans.
That is another three and out for the Sun Devils.
Arizona State punts.


USC 7, Arizona State 0 (9:46 left in the 1st quarter)

Arizona State will start from its own 20-yard line.

Linebacker Su'a Cravens drops D.J. Foster for a loss. This is the second consecutive game that Cravens -- who is listed as a safety -- has started at linebacker.

Arizona State goes three and out. USC used five defensive backs on third down.

The Sun Devils punt... and USC's Nelson Agholor returns it 53 yards for a USC touchdown.

Andre Heidari's extra point is good.


The Stanley Cup and two members of the Los Angeles Kings are being recognized on the field during the television timeout.


USC will start from its own one-yard line.

Quarterback Cody Kessler throws down field on the first play of the game, but the pass to JuJu Smith falls incomplete.

Arizona State, the least penalized team in the Pac-12, picks up a facemask penalty on the first play of the series.

Kessler goes back to Smith for a seven-yard gain, and then picks up a first down on a pass to Nelson Agholor.

Already, we're seeing a much different game plan from Coach Steve Sarkisian, who appears to be setting up the passing game before the running game.

Darreus Rogers catches a pass from Kessler. That makes three different receivers who have caught a pass in USC's first four snaps.

Rogers drops a wide-open pass on third down. He would have had the first down -- and then some.

Sarkisian has chosen to go for it on fourth and five from USC's own 47-yard line. I take that back. Kessler punted the ball, but it bounced into the end zone for a touchback.

That makes two quarterbacks with punts in the first two series of the game.

Interesting note, Arizona State freshman linebacker D.J. Calhoun and defensive lineman Tashon Smallwood were once committed to USC.


Arizona State fields the kick off and returns it 46 yards.

The Sun Devils will start at their own 49-yard line. USC's special teams play was an area that the Trojans said they would clean up after the Oregon State game.

On first down, cornerback Adoree' Jackson makes a big tackle for USC to force third down. Leonard Williams drops D.J. Foster for a loss on the next play, to set up third and 11 for Arizona State.

Leonard Williams picks up a rare offsides penalty.

An official might be USC's best defender yet. Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici throws on third down and nails him on third down.

Bercovici comes out on fourth down, but punts the foootball.


Arizona State won the toss and elected to receive.

The Trojans were lead out of the tunnel by USC legend Rodney Peete.

The official game-time temperature is 92 degrees.


USC announced its starting lineups on the video board.

The offense: Quarterback Cody Kessler, receivers JuJu Smith and Nelson Agholor, tight end Randall Telfer, fullback Soma Vainuku, tailback Javorius Allen, offensive linemen Zach Banner, Viane Talamaivao, Max Tuerk, Toa Lobendahn and Chad Wheeler.

Interesting to note, USC announced two receivers and a fullback for the first time this season. The Trojans started three receivers in the previous games.

The defense: Defensive linemen Delvon Simmons, Antwaun Woods and Leonard Williams, linebackers J.R. Tavai, Su'a Cravens, Hayes Pullard, Anthony Sarao, cornerbacks Kevon Seymour and Adoree' Jackson, and safeties Gerald Bowman and Leon McQuay III.


USC announced on Twitter that freshman Adoree' Jackson will make his first career start at cornerback against Arizona State. Chris Hawkins started the first four games.


Thermometers are hovering around the 100-degree mark at the Coliseum more than an hour before kickoff.

USC injury report: receiver Ajene Harris and offensive lineman Jordan Simmons are sidelined.

USC is hosting Missouri City (Texas) Marshall High cornerback Kendall Sheffield on an official visit this weekend. Sheffield is regarded as one of the top cornerback recruits in the nation.