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ASU vs. Sacramento State: The Last Word

We talked with Sun Devil safety Alden Darby who gives us his final analysis on the Sun Devils' season-opener.

Darby wants to protect the "No Fly Zone" in the defensive backfield.
Darby wants to protect the "No Fly Zone" in the defensive backfield.

Raise your hand if you consider yourself an expert on the Sacramento State football team.

Unless you attended the university or all of a sudden transformed into a diehard Hornets fan after years of supporting your Sun Devils, your hand probably isn't raised. You're probably still looking around to make sure that your friends' hands are in their pockets too.

The Hornets are the great unknown, which is why Sun Devil fans still have a tiny ounce of fear left in their bodies about Thursday night's matchup.

As dutiful writers, we've done our research. Sacramento State has talented skill position players and a dual-threat quarterback who can cause problems against any team. That much we know.

But to go really in-depth, we couldn't rely on watching college football reruns or recalling great Hornets' performances of the past. Instead, we talked to the one Sun Devil who will not just know what plays the Hornets can run, but how they'll walk out of the tunnel, how they tape their ankles, and what they eat for breakfast.

Sun Devil safety Alden Darby is a student of the game, and he's well aware of what's at stake.

"We can't take them lightly; they have nothing to lose," Darby said. "Beating us is everything to them so that's all they care about."

Eight different FBS schools fell to FCS opponents last week in an historic week for the "pay for play" opponents. Sacramento State has a track record of success against BCS conference teams, and even with the Hornets' loss to San Jose State last week, Darby says they can't be taken lightly.

"You can't look at the first game and judge them even though they got shutout," Darby said. "If you look at the first game they had two or three trips to the red zone and if they would have capitalized and scored, who knows how the game would have went."

The Hornets red zone inefficiency is certainly the mark of an overwhelmed opponent. But coach Marshall Sperbeck has the weapons to turn flops into field goals and turnovers into touchdowns against anyone which definitely catches Darby's eye.

"They're very capable of scoring, their skill positions are very good, they're a talented team," Darby said.

What's going to be the difference between the Sun Devils and teams like Oregon State and Kansas State who lost their openers against FCS teams? Preparation.

"You have to prepare for this week like it's the National Championship," Darby said.

The Sun Devils have spent more than a month preparing for every possible angle the Hornets can attack from. Quite frankly, Arizona State wants to use this week to put the rest of the Pac-12 on notice.

"They'll run trick plays, fake punts, and we know that and we want to dominate," Darby said. "We don't just want to win, we want to dominate every single game and we want to make a statement coming out this week."

It's not often you hear players call a matchup with an FCS opponent a "statement game," but that's exactly how Todd Graham wants his Sun Devils to think.

Graham has transformed his team from players who believe they can win into players who expect to win. Darby is the catalyst behind the cause, and he's ready to start the quest for the Pac-12 championship with a resounding first victory.

"We're excited to get out there," Darby said. "I can't wait to see our defense and I can't wait to see our offense go out there and put a lot of points up."