Kevin Ozier celebrates his second quarter touchdown catch with his Sun Devil teammates - Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE
The Sun Devils picked up their first road victory of the Todd Graham era against California in late September. Kevin Ozier deserves much of the credit after he delivered Play No. 8 on our "12 Plays of Christmas" countdown.
Top Play No. 8: Kevin Ozier comes down with a circus catch in the end zone after drawing triple coverage from the Golden Bear defense.
2 Points: Momentum Changing Play
3 Points: Play occurred in a Sun Devil victory
5 Points: Play resulted in a Sun Devil touchdown
Total: 10 Points
In late September, the Arizona State football team headed up to Berkeley, California in search of an elusive treasure. While the Sun Devils began the season 3-1, all three of the team's victories came inside the friendly confines of Sun Devil Stadium.
For years, a major criticism of the Arizona State football program has been the Sun Devils' inability to capitalize on golden opportunities against beatable teams on the road.
When the Sun Devils traveled east to Franklin, Missouri earlier in the season, Todd Graham and company were gift-wrapped a chance at picking up an away game win when the Missouri Tigers announced that quarterback James Franklin would remain on the sidelines with an injury.
Alas, the Sun Devils' youth shined through at critical junctures of the game and the loss inspired doubts in the Arizona State fan base back in Tempe. Fortunately, the Sun Devils recovered and reeled off two straight victories before flying north to take on the California Golden Bears.
Though the Bears entered the matchup with a less than stellar record of 1-3, they competed admirably at Ohio State and provided the Sun Devils with yet another valuable road test.
On a picturesque Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, the teams prepared for an early season Pac-12 matchup that would help answer questions regarding each team's future moving forward.
Could Todd Graham lift the Sun Devils out of prolonged mediocrity on the road and return home with a much needed road victory? Would Jeff Tedford lead the Bears to victory over a surging Sun Devil squad and boost his job security?
When the teams gathered for action, Arizona State wide receiver Kevin Ozier helped ensure that the Sun Devils would be the team finding answers.
After a largely uneventful first quarter in Berkeley, the Sun Devils held a 7-0 lead, but the outcome remained far from certain. When Golden Bears' running back Isi Sofele scampered 24 yards to tie the game with 13 minutes remaining before the half, the Sun Devils needed a player to step up.
Arizona State drove 12 plays and 52 yards to set up a go-ahead score, but the offense stalled in the red zone and the Sun Devils were forced to settle for a field goal.
The ball changed hands a couple of times after the Sun Devils grabbed a 10-7 lead, as both defenses held strong throughout most of the first half. When the Sun Devils took possession with 3:11 left in the half, they had one final chance to take control of the game heading into halftime.
Behind a strong showing from quarterback Taylor Kelly, Arizona State drove into the red zone and once again struggled to penetrate the Golden Bears' defense.
On first and goal from the seven-yard line, Cal rebuffed Marion Grice on a rushing attempt and sent the Sun Devil rusher for a two-yard loss. On second and goal, the Cal defense forced Taylor Kelly out of the pocket and he had to fire the ball out of bounds instead of taking a sack.
With the game still hanging in the balance, the Sun Devils set up shop on third and goal from the nine-yard line needing a touchdown.
After the incompletion, the game clock read 59 seconds and the Sun Devils had used up all of their timeouts.
Arizona State stuck to their no-huddle offense and aligned with two receivers and a tight end on the right and another receiver split wide left. Cameron Marshall flanked Taylor Kelly to his right in the shotgun formation as well.
The slot receiver on the right side of the formation was No. 82 Kevin Ozier who cut straight toward the end zone upon the snap of the football.
By the time Kelly received the snap, Ozier already realized his route sent him in the general direction of three different Golden Bear defenders.
Instead of cutting off his route and looking for open space, Ozier settled in on a curl about two steps deep in the end zone. Amazingly, Kelly decided to attempt to thread the needle into triple coverage and Ozier was ready to make a play.
The Sun Devil wide receiver leaped in the end zone and secured the football in the air, but the hardest part of his play was just beginning. Ozier saw a defensive back racing at him in an effort to dislodge the football, and contorted his body upside down to avoid a devastating blow from any one of the three Golden Bears in coverage.
Ozier shocked the California secondary as the Golden Bears stood speechless after whiffing on their tackling attempts and seeing a Sun Devil player slip through the triple coverage across the middle.
Arizona State grabbed a commanding 17-7 lead heading into the half and received a great morale boost from the late touchdown drive. The Golden Bears never cut into the 10-point deficit after halftime and the Sun Devils returned to Tempe victorious with their first road victory of the Todd Graham era.
Kevin Ozier's remarkable circus catch didn't just give the Sun Devils a boost heading into halftime, the play changed the course of the game and helped Arizona State secure an elusive victory away from Sun Devil Stadium.
For a complete breakdown of our "12 Plays of Christmas" click here