Arizona State's heart-stopping victory against UCLA this season is a game that will run through the minds of players, coaches and fans alike for years to come. And one of the defining plays of that game makes an appearance at No. 4 in our "12 Plays of Christmas" series.
The Play: Carl Bradford intercepts UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and returns the ball 18 yards for a touchdown.
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
10 Points: The play led to the Territorial Cup victory of the Pac-12 South-clinching win against UCLA.
Point Total: 21
Every so often, we hear the phrase "fat guy touchdown." While there are many different variations of a "fat guy touchdown," the most frequent form it takes is a defensive lineman intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown.
In the Sun Devils' 38-33 victory against UCLA this season, the Arizona State defense was fortunate to have one of its defensive lineman score what is technically considered a "fat guy touchdown". But when Carl Bradford snagged a Brett Hundley pass and returned it for a score, the last phrase you would have heard a football analyst use to describe the play is a "fat guy touchdown."
To use that term would be to severely butcher a description of the play, because Bradford is not your typical defensive lineman. In Arizona State's defense, the 6-foot-1, 241-pound specimen plays a myriad of roles in a variety of ways. Bradford will align as a linebacker and blitz off the edge or track down a back in pass coverage. He'll also put his hand in the dirt and rush the quarterback from a defensive lineman's stance.
Against UCLA, Bradford performed his roles to the best of his abilities and proved why he's one of the most talented juniors in the entire country. For all of the hype teammate Will Sutton gets, Bradford has quietly gone about his business and turned into one of the top defenders in the conference.
The freakish athleticism Bradford exhibits on a game-by-game basis was on display yet again against the Bruins in Pasadena. On a night where he finished with seven tackles and a sack, the most important play he made was one the Sun Devils aren't used to seeing from him.
In the second quarter, Arizona State held a 14-10 lead in a game that seemed destined to be a shootout. Both teams traded scores early on, and neither defense looked supremely confident. That is, until Bradford turned the tide of the game.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Bruins faced second down and eight from their own 25-yard line. UCLA wanted to set up a quick screen pass, so prior to the snap, quarterback Brett Hundley sent tight end Darius Bell across the formation in motion to the right.
At the snap of the ball, Hundley planted his feet and targeted Bell on a swing route. But the split second that the play took to develop was all the time Bradford needed to pounce. Rushing off the edge from his spot at defensive end, Bradford executed a ferocious bullrush and found himself seven yards in the backfield.
Instead of turning in toward Hundley, Bradford pattered his feet and waited for Hundley to throw to Bell. The pass had no chance of making it to its target, as Bradford was in perfect position to catch the ball and jog into the end zone.
Bradford caught the ball at the 18-yard line, and caught all of the momentum the Sun Devils needed to pull off their best quarter of the season. Arizona State outscored UCLA 21-3 in the second quarter, and it all started with Bradford's perfectly timed interception that helped the Sun Devils seize the Pac-12 South crown.