(Photo: ASU Athletics)
A perfect half of offensive football is something every coach aspires to have. It isn’t easy to come by and requires almost flawless execution on both sides of the ball.
One great quarter usually implies 21 points, but 28 in a single quarter and 42 points in a half? It’s unprecedented.
And yet that is exactly what Arizona State scored in the 3rd quarter and second half against USC, in a 62-41 win that ultimately cost Trojan head coach Lane Kiffin his job.
Alden Darby played a key role on defense throughout the game for the Sun Devils, but especially in the high-flying third quarter. Despite giving up 41 points, most of that came on the ground, which (a majority of the time) could not be blamed on the secondary.
The turning point came with 13:06 left to play in the third quarter. After Tre Madden rushed for 11 yards to begin the drive from the USC 25 yard line, Cody Kessler dropped back to pass, looked left and threw right on an out route. Darby jumped it and intercepted the pass, tiptoeing the sideline and bringing the ball back 46 yards for a touchdown to put ASU up 34-21 and send the game out of reach for the Trojans.
The Sun Devils never looked back from there.
“This week we all challenged ourselves in the secondary to really pick it up,” Darby said after the game.
Darby also forced and recovered a fumble, while recording seven tackles in the game and picking off another Kessler pass.
“The switch, it goes on and it doesn’t go off when we play those guys,” Darby said. “We’re not just turning it on when we play SC.”
Ironically, Darby lost the right to wear the Pat Tillman jersey in practice this week. His performance Saturday night was reminiscent of Tillman’s tenacity on the field. If he plays like this every week, he may very well earn that jersey right back.
He now has 19 tackles on the season, good for third on the team.
“It’s crazy how it works,” Darby said. “Last year having a pick six against USC, this year having another pick six and interception against USC.
“I feel fortunate I guess… I’ve just always had something against those guys.”