TEMPE, Ariz. — One play does not define a game, let alone a season.
Try telling that to ASU senior safety Alden Darby.
Two years ago, in the Sun Devils’ last appearance in the Rose Bowl against UCLA, the Bruins drove the football to the ASU 20-yard line trailing by five.
There was a seven-yard loss on a fumble followed by a 15-yard penalty for offensive pass interference. On 2nd-and-32, then-quarterback Kevin Prince rushed for three yards.
That set up a “3rd down-and-29, back shoulder fade,” Darby said.
Price completed the pass to receiver Nelson Rosario for 33 yards to the ASU 6-yard line.
“Oh yeah, that was Darby’s cornerback days,” Osahon Irabor recalled earlier this week. He then joked, “You see, we play him at safety now, so we’re good.”
Three plays later running back Derrick Coleman rushed for a one-yard touchdown and the game-winning score.
The Sun Devils quickly got into field goal range, but Alex Garoutte’s 46-yard attempt missed as time expired.
Darby, to this day, said he hasn’t forgotten that long pass play.
“To be all the way honest, I watched the game (Monday),” he said. “I was in position. They told me ‘ball’ and I looked up and it was back-shoulder fade and he completed a third down-and 29. I mean it’s crazy that you asked that because I actually watched the game (Monday). I asked for the DVD. People ask me, ‘How do ya’ll lose to them your sophomore year?’ I said, ‘It’s all my fault.’ I gave up that pass on third down with little time left on the clock. I take that personally. I just want to go back out there to the Rose Bowl and make up for it.”
The loss sent ASU into a tailspin that it didn’t recover from.
The Sun Devils lost three more times, ending the regular season on a four-game skid that ultimately cost Dennis Erickson his job.
“I think it’s kind of good to reflect on that and use that as motivation,” Irabor said.
ASU returns to the Rose Bowl Saturday, and a win against UCLA will clinch the Pac-12 South and send the Sun Devils to the conference championship game on Dec. 7.
Darby, who leads the team with 11 pass breakups this season, is anxious for a shot at redemption.
“That was really my first time getting my feet wet out there in a key situation in the game, man-to-man on their best receiver,” Darby said. “I was still young. Now I have a lot more knowledge of the game. I’m a lot smarter. I’ve just grown mentally. I just have a better knowledge for the game.
“Me personally, I want to go out there and have one of my best games against these guys. Just come back my senior year, Pac-12 South champions, knowing that we’re going to the Pac-12 Championship. That’s how I want my senior year to go.”