Welcome to our new summer series. A lot has happened over Todd Graham's first three seasons as Arizona State's head football coach. Over the next two weeks, we will be ranking 15 of Graham's 28 total wins so far before the 2015 season, which has potential to send the program to new heights.
In the No. 4 victory, Graham's team ran wild against rival Arizona in the 2013 Territorial Cup. Today, we have No. 3 in our countdown, which provided us with one of the most exciting moments in Sun Devil football history.
No. 3: October 4, 2014 - ASU stuns USC on "Jael Mary"
If there's one win that stands out from the rest on this list, it's certainly this one.
The Sun Devils' miraculous victory over USC in 2014 didn't occur without some aid from what some would argue to be both physical and spiritual forces.
However, three factors in particular greatly influenced how the thrilling matchup ultimately played out.
1. Mike Bercovici
Despite setting the school's single-game passing record in his first start, Bercovici's outing against UCLA didn't necessarily go his way. A hot start and some defensive lapses spiraled into a spell of miscues as the interim starter tried to force his team back into the game with no avail.
A week later, the redshirt junior now faced one of the most talented defensive groups in the country in what was the team's most pivotal game (to that point in the year) on a primetime stage.
Ultimately, Berco delivered, tossing for 510 yards and five touchdowns against no turnovers. He facilitated three straight improbable scoring possessions in the fourth quarter that pushed the Sun Devils to victory that ended on a last gasp heave that exalted him into the ranks of school legendry.
While this series is supposed to be a portrayal of the skill with which Graham has guided ASU during his tenure, there is one flaw (shall we label it as such?) he possesses: a habit of what would appear to be an ill-advised use of his timeouts.
Graham had already exhausted all three of his available timeouts in the second half by the 2:25 mark in the third quarter.
During the high-scoring fourth quarter, Trojans running back Javorius "Buck" Allen broke away from the ASU defense on a 53-yard run to the end zone with three minutes remaining in the game. The score put USC ahead 34-25, pitting Graham's unit behind a two-possession deficit.
Had Allen gone down inside ASU territory with such a short amount of time left and the Sun Devils without any timeouts, one could assume the Trojans would have been able to run out the rest of the clock and come away with the win.
Instead, ASU struck back immediately on the following possession, as Bercovici connected with receiver Cameron Smith on a 73-yard strike to bring the Sun Devils within two points with 2:43 remaining.
The Sun Devil defense forced the Trojans into a long three-and-out, as they punted back to ASU with just 23 seconds remaining.
No timeouts. Seventy-two yards to go.
3. Faith, Luck and Blessings.
The final drive started at ASU's own 28-yard line. After an incompletion on the first play, Bercovici found receiver Gary Chambers for a 26-yard completion to put the Sun Devils at USC's 46-yard line.
Then, it happened.
With seven seconds left, Bercovici sailed a high arching bomb that seemed like it would inevitably be deflected or fall harmlessly to the turf. Fortunately, the pass navigated its way into the hands of a streaking Jaelen Strong in front of multiple Trojans defenders in the end zone.
Feel free to relive it.
Then, Sun Devil Nation reacted.
Call it what you want. Luck, skill, or even ineptitude to knock a pass away. Either way, Graham and his team came away with an incredible victory that day.
It's one that will be revisited by Sun Devil football fans for generations.
WHAT IT DID FOR ASU:
Graham's squad—fresh off of a brutal loss at the hands of UCLA on its home field—needed a strong showing against talented Pac-12 competition if it wanted any chance at being considered for the College Football Playoff later in the season. This win provided that, and catapulted the Sun Devils to four consecutive wins following their miraculous victory.
For the fan base, it made the team's fill-in quarterback, Bercovici, not only a hero, but someone that the fans could trust under center moving forward in place of the injured Taylor Kelly. For Bercovici himself, the win over USC allowed not only his teammates to rally behind his impressive play, but gave him the confidence to thoroughly assume his role as the team's vocal leader.
As a result, he is currently a key reason the 2015 Sun Devils have such high expectations heading into the upcoming year, which is centered around championship expectations with Bercovici as the catalyst.