Yesterday it was ASU football's victory over Notre Dame (97%) taking down ASU basketball's victory over UCONN (3%) to advance to the quarterfinals of our #SunDevilMoments series bracket. Here are the current results of the Round of 16.
The final Round of 16 matchup contests our top seed against the start of the Sun Devil Stadium renovations.
It will go down as perhaps the greatest single play in Arizona State history. Jaelen Strong made plenty of highlight reel plays during his tenure in maroon and gold. The one-handed reception for a touchdown against Notre Dame or the numerous leaping catches on back-shoulder fades immediately jump to mind when thinking about Strong.
However, nothing comes close to the Jael Mary. But, before we get to the play, let's set the scene.
The Sun Devils were on the road, October 4, 2014, against the USC Trojans. It was the first game for ASU since getting thrashed by UCLA on national television nine days earlier. Despretly needing a victory to remain in contention in the Pac-12 South, Mike Bercovici led the Sun Devils into the Los Angeles Coliseum.
After falling down 7-0 in the first quarter, ASU responded with two touchdown passes from Bercovici to Strong to take a 15-7 lead midway through the second quarter. USC put up 10 points in the final three minutes of the first half to take a 17-15 lead into halftime.
The teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter as USC led 20-18 heading into the fourth. After a Cody Kessler 8-yard touchdown run gave USC a 27-18 lead, Bercovici found D.J. Foster for a 21-yard touchdown pass to pull ASU to within 27-25.
However, with 3:04 left in the game, Buck Allen burned the ASU defense for a 53-yard touchdown run to give USC a seemingly commanding 34-25 lead. Allen on the day rushed for 143 yards on 29 carries.
The Sun Devils responded with a touchdown of their own 19 seconds later, when Bercovici found Cam Smith for a 73-yard touchdown pass. The Sun Devils trailed 34-32 with 2:43 minutes left. The defense forced a punt and the offense received the ball back with 23 seconds left and 78 yards to the endzone.
On the second play of the drive, Bercovici found Gary Chambers for 26 yards, but the Sun Devils were unable to get the ball within field goal range. With seven seconds left, ASU snapped the ball from the USC 46-yard line. Bercovici wound up and heaved a shot towards USC end zone. That is when Strong made the greatest play of his ASU career as he cut his route inside and made a leaping catch at the goal line for a touchdown.
The Jael Mary was born.
For the last several years, the Arizona State athletic department has repeatedly addressed the need to renovate Sun Devil Stadium, the structure built in 1958 famous for being wedged between two buttes.
The problem, however, was finalizing plans to actually send the construction crew to begin them.
Since then-athletic director Steve Patterson announced the initial renovation plans in April 2012, there was much debate on a number of issues. How much would the renovations cost? How long would they take? From where would Arizona State get the money to finance it? Will there be a new roof over the stadium, and would it still allow the signature in-game fireworks? Would ASU football have to play somewhere else during the renovation process?
The hurdles turned the idea into a two-year soap opera that was almost as tiring as the Mayweather-Pacquiao saga.
The project was revived in January 2014 when newly-hired athletic director Ray Anderson introduced a new renovation campaign called "Momentum," but asked the ASU community to help contribute $85 million. While plans continued to be worked, Arizona State got the ball rolling by knocking out the upper north endzone deck prior to the start of the 2014 football season. ASU then released an updated plan in August 2014, announcing the budget to be $256 million.
The plans became closer to a reality in January when ASU sent another construction crew to demolish the south endzone seating, and had the Arizona Board of Regents approved financing for Phase I, which calls for building permanent, concrete seating in the south endzone that would designate the new student section.
You can bet ASU coach Todd Graham is excited for these changes.
Coach Graham is committed to the reinvention of Sun Devil Stadium. Watch as he helps the construction process: https://t.co/xTQhdMhMzb— Sun Devil Athletics (@TheSunDevils) February 10, 2015
Since January, the construction crew has remained at Sun Devil Stadium, working through several events like the Spring Game, Pat's Run and the spring commencement ceremony.
The renovation process has only started and final plans still appear to be a work in progress, but ASU fans should be nothing but excited to see these changes finally coming.
A reinvented Sun Devil Stadium is just another sign of a promising, new era in the athletic department. Even with renderings available, we're still not too sure what the final product would look like, but we're confident it's going to be first-class.