One of the most fascinating on-field story lines from Arizona State's 2012 season was the overhaul seen on defense. Both in scheme and mentality, the Sun Devils of this past year presented a fierce and relentless group that stood out in stark contrast to what had been seen in recent years.
Along with Will Sutton's leap to All-American status, Carl Bradford's play at the new Devilbacker position was a critical factor in the defensive resurgence. In his first season as a starter, he tallied 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles-for-loss, and repeatedly showed the skills to become one of the nation's elite defenders.
The best showcase of his all-around game came during one of ASU's most disappointing performances, the 38-17 loss at USC. Despite the end result, Bradford was a true terror for the Trojan offense.
Carl Bradford's Stat Line vs. USC: 10 total tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception, 1 sack
After a failed fourth down attempt by ASU on the game's opening possession, Bradford wasted little time in making his presence felt with a tremendous hustle play that resulted in a Trojan turnover, and five plays later, a Sun Devil touchdown.
Throughout the day, Bradford would be a menacing harassment for USC quarterback Matt Barkley, and after a few close calls, Bradford got his man in the second quarter.
Continuing the trend of starting halves off with great plays, Bradford then produced what many fans called the best highlight-reel worthy moment of 2012 on the first play after halftime.
Late in the game, ASU trailed 31-17 with under four minutes left. Taylor Kelly had just thrown a nasty interception and USC looked to slam the door with the ball on the Sun Devil 17-yard line. But a great play by Brandon Magee jarred the football loose from Curtis McNeal, and Bradford took advantage.
The Sun Devils had life...for a moment. Sadly, Kelly immediately squandered that opportunity with another interception on the first play, and ASU's fate was sealed.
Nevertheless, the game served as a large stage for which Bradford showed the nation the havoc that he could wreak.
Bradford's Second-Best Game: vs. Illinois: 9 tackles, 2.5 sacks
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