USC still suffering Hail Mary blues

Less than 24 hours after his team suffered a heart wrenching loss to Arizona State on a game-ending Hail Mary touchdown from Mike Bercovici to Jaelen Strong, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t feel any better about it.

"The same things that probably frustrate you in person, frustrate you when you look at the film," Sarkisian said during his weekly Sunday night teleconference.

For 57 of the 60 minutes Sarkisian says he believes his team played a "very good" football game.

As for the final three minutes?

"We didn’t play great," Sarkisian admitted.

The Trojans were outscored 13-0 during that stretch. The two scoring plays during that time span totaled 119 yards –a 73 yard touchdown from Bercovici to Cameron Smith and, of course, the game winning 46-yard Hail Mary.

At USC’s expense it’s a play that will likely be talked about for the duration of the season and replayed forever.

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There are some things that stick out. Most glaring is Mike linebacker Hayes Pullard playing the deep middle of the field. When asked following Saturday night’s loss if that was a position he was accustomed to playing, Pullard said "not completely."

"Just in those type of scenarios where I could just box out, nothing jumping, nothing crazy, just boxing out (the opposition)," Pullard said.

The designated jump ball guy on the defense was Leon McQuay III but he ran into Pullard on the play leaving him unable to execute his part, Sarkisian said.

Along with that, there was some confusion among the defenders.

The Trojans called two plays defensively. The team had an original call and during an official stoppage before the game’s final play, the defensive play call was changed. Here’s how the rest of that unfolded as told by Sarkisian:

"As we got the (second) call made we had a couple of guys that didn’t quite get to position at the snap of the ball but adjusted themselves into position after the ball got snapped," Sarkisian said. "We ended up being in the right position. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get the ball knocked down."  

Aside from the result –Sarkisian said he’s never been a part of a game with a Hail Mary and now has had one in consecutive weeks, one for his team and one against -there was a complexity to the situation because the Trojans had to defend more than just the Hail Mary.

The Sun Devils, trailing by two at the time, needed just a field goal to win the game. They had an option to throw a deep out, 15 or 20 yards, in that situation to get into field goal range.

"(We) had to defend both," Sarkisian said. "Had to defend the out route to the sidelines as well as the Hail Mary so it got into a unique scenario."

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Bercovici elected to heave it deep towards the endzone and it resulted in the Sun Devils winning inside the Coliseum for the first time since 1999.

There’s certainly a lesson to be learned.  

 "The game’s never over until there are zeroes on the clock," Sarkisian said.

 That was Arizona State’s approach.