Seeing good defense makes head coach Todd Graham smile more than anything. In that case, here are the three performances last season by a Sun Devil defender that must have made Graham the happiest.
Redshirt junior defensive back Damarious Randall against UA
For the Sun Devils, games against the rival Wildcats mean a little bit more than others. Last season, ASU came away with a 58-21 blowout victory over UA in which the Wildcats’ passing attack was rendered useless due in large part to Randall.
Randall led all Sun Devils with 12 tackles, but his biggest play came with a 64-yard interception return for a touchdown that put ASU up 37-14 midway through the third quarter. It was UA’s quarterback B.J. Denker’s second of three interceptions of the game and capped off a nightmare performance for him in which he completed only half of his passes for 175 yards and no touchdowns.
Randall also forced a fumble late in the third quarter, stripping the ball from Denker, but the ball landed in UA wide receiver Garic Wharton’s hands and he returned for a touchdown. Despite that bad luck, Randall earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors for his game against the in-state rivals.
Senior linebacker Chris Young against No. 14 UCLA
Young was the team leader in tackles last season and was a Second Team All-Pac-12, which basically means he had a lot of good games. Young’s best game last season came in the 38-33 win at No. 14 UCLA.
Young led ASU with 13 tackles, 12 of them solo tackles, and a career-high three quarterback sacks. Two of those sacks came in the fourth quarter, including what could very well have been the best play of Young’s collegiate career. With just over five minutes left to go in the game with ASU up by five points, UCLA was on ASU’s seven-yard line on a third and six. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley went back to pass and, needing a stop, Young sacked him for a 13-yard loss. Bruins kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the ensuing field goal attempt, which gave ASU the ball back with their lead intact and 4:38 left to play.
Young sacked Hundley again on the very first play of UCLA’s next drive, and he would come up with the tackle on fourth down to end the drive and the game. Young was given Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week following his heroic performance.
Senior safety Alden Darby against USC
A lot of things went right for ASU in its 62-41 win over USC. Despite the monstrous score line, the player who shined the brightest was Darby.
Darby tallied five solo tackles, seven total, and also had a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble that he recovered. Darby’s first interception came on USC’s second drive of the third quarter after the Trojans and Sun Devils traded touchdowns in the beginning of the frame. ASU was up 27-21, but a mistake by USC quarterback Cody Kessler led to a 46-yard pick six by Darby, and all of a sudden ASU was up by 13.
Darby intercepted Kessler again later in the quarter, giving the ASU offense a short field to work with which led to another touchdown, the fourth of the quarter for the Sun Devils. After being down 21-20 at one point in the third quarter, Darby’s big plays sparked a rally by ASU, and by the end of the third, the Sun Devils were up 48-21. Darby earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for his performance.
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