ASU Football: "12 Plays of Christmas" No. 1 Randall's return

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Drumroll please...The No. 1 play of the year goes to Arizona State safety Damarious Randall.

There were 13 games, 10 wins, a Territorial Cup trophy and a Pac-12 South crown, and of all the great memories, Damarious Randall produced one of the best.

The Play: Damarious Randall intercepts Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker and returns the pass 64 yards for a touchdown.

Point Breakdown

2 Points: The play changed the momentum of the game

3 Points: The play occurred in a Sun Devil victory

6 Points: The play was a touchdown scored by the Sun Devil defense

7 Points: The play went for 40 or more yards (Big Play Factor)

10 Points: The play led to the Territorial Cup victory or the Pac-12 South-clinching win against UCLA

Point Total: 28

At the beginning of the season, the Arizona State defense was not nearly as productive as a typical Todd Graham defense. The Sun Devils looked out of whack at times, and surrendered 42 points against Stanford, 41 against USC and 37 against Notre Dame.

Many of the problems stemmed from an injury to Jaxon Hood that forced personnel to shuffle around, but Arizona State also had issues in the secondary. The Sun Devils were having a hard time finding a player to pair with Alden Darby at safety, as Laiu Moeakiola lacked the consistency Arizona State desired.

Against Notre Dame, Graham decided to make a move that would change the course of the season for his defense. He inserted junior safety Damarious Randall into the lineup, and the Sun Devils never looked back.

Randall started off his career with a bang. The JUCO transfer made 17 tackles against the Fighting Irish, and even though the Sun Devils lost, he became the answer to Arizona State's problems.

In the ensuing five matchups, the Sun Devils surrendered no more than 24 points in a game. Randall's presence gave the secondary a complete look. Randall was the strong run-stuffer Arizona State needed at safety, and he held his own in pass coverage.

Though Randall was the only starter in the secondary left off the Pac-12 All-Conference teams, he played as well as any of his peers down the stretch.

And against the Arizona Wildcats, he made a play that he and his teammates will never forget.

After Arizona State jumped out to a 27-0 lead, the Wildcats began to creep back into the contest. Arizona was on the verge of turning a four-score margin into a possible one-score deficit when it drove past midfield in the third quarter.

The Sun Devils still led 30-14, but Arizona could smell the end zone from just 38 yards away. On third down and four, the Wildcats were desperately hoping to convert and keep their drive alive in Sun Devil territory.

Quarterback B.J. Denker aligned in shotgun formation with running back Ka'Deem Carey flanking him on his left side. The Wildcats split a wide receiver out right and bunched three receivers tight together on the left side of the formation.

When Denker took the snap, the lefty did a decent job of keeping his head down field to look off the safety. The problem? The safety already knew what was coming.

Damarous Randall saw the slant route from wideout Garic Wharton developing the instant the play began. As Denker unleashed his pass, Randall was in a dead sprint headed directly between Wharton and the ball.

The Sun Devil safety never broke his stride as he stepped in front of the pass at the 38-yard line and accelerated downfield. Even an all-out effort from Denker wasn't enough to catch Randall in his race for the end zone.

Randall's score gave Arizona State an insurmountable 37-14 lead and swung the momentum back in favor of the Sun Devils one final time. The pick-six was all the Sun Devils needed to assure themselves a second straight Territorial Cup victory and a thorough domination of their rival from down South.

Arizona State still has unfinished business left on its plate at the Holiday Bowl, but something tells us Damarious Randall already showed us the main course.

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