Bradford at the top of his game

Chris Young was honored with the Pac-12 defensive player of the week award for his outstanding performance against UCLA on Saturday, but if his work was in any jeopardy of being overshadowed it would be by the play of devil backer Carl Bradford, who had himself one of the best games of his junior campaign against the Bruins to lead Arizona State to the Pac-12 South title.

"It felt great," Bradford said of the win. "It's always fun to beat the California opponents, especially since I‘m from California so (beating) SC and UCLA felt really good."

Bradford finished the game with a season high eight tackles, a sack, and an interception returned for a touchdown at the start of the second quarter to extend the Devils' lead over the Bruins to 21-10 and shift the momentum in their favor.

"It was film work," Bradford explained about his interception, "and instincts too. I just saw him do a little Utah motion and I saw the quarterback's eyes. He turned, I peeled him and he threw the ball right to me, it fell into my hands and I just ran for a 19-yard touchdown.

"That one and the SC pick last year are definitely the top two plays so far in my career."

Where the time of possession battle (and the game as a whole) in Pasadena was securely in ASU's favor in the first half, the second half was a different story. Bradford and the defense were out on the field for 17:32 of the second half, with 11:28 of that coming into the fourth quarter.

The Devils' defenders were clearly gassed towards the end of that game. UCLA was moving the ball at will and had the ball, down by five with three minutes left and Arizona State was reliving the past all over again. A little over a year removed from last year's collapse against the Bruins in Tempe, the Devils were once again faced with finding a way to try and win with their defense on the field.

After giving up a first down on the Bruins' final drive, the Sun Devil defense buckled down and forced a turnover on downs to win the south in front of 70,000 at the Rose Bowl. Similar story, with a different outcome for a team that seems destined to be successful this year.

"You check the last few years and it was very similar where we lost by a point or two," Bradford said. "But this year is something different, I could see it in each other's eyes and we knew we had to finish. We came with a little chip on our shoulder and told ourselves we weren't going to be in that position again. We just went out and finished it.

"Our guys have a lot of heart; they're willing to fight until the last tick on the clock. It's hard to compare it to last year because it's similar players but you see something different in our eyes. We want it this year and we play with a passion and in the end of the day we get it done."

There was a change in the Arizona State defense after the loss to Notre Dame game in Dallas. Bradford mentioned that while it was a tough loss, the team knew that they could bounce back.

"We knew what type of team we had this year," Bradford said. "That wasn't a big time loss because it wasn't a division game. So we just learned from that and now we are where we are."

Arizona State now ranks in the top fifteen nationally in many statistical categories on defense: 18 interceptions (4th), 3.09 sacks a game (8th) and only 181 first downs allowed (12th).

"We have got a great group of guys of defense; great character guys that play with a passion. They play with a high energy and it's just fun to be around. We have got playmakers everywhere and we get hyped for each other and so it's an amazing defense to play with."

Arizona State and their second ranked defense in the Pac-12 is back in the friendly confines of Sun Devil Stadium this weekend to try and keep the Territorial Cup in Tempe.

Bradford, much like the rest of the players that have been involved in the Duel in the Desert, isn't shy from sharing his opinion of the opposition.

"That's hatred over there," Bradford said with a smirk. "But they're just another Pac-12 South team that we need to defend and they're our rivals so we're obviously going to come out firing in our home stadium."

In a game such as the one against Arizona, it's important for Bradford and the rest of the Sun Devil defense to keep their emotions in check and stay level headed.

Bradford admits that he sometimes plays with too much passion. That was evident in the Oregon State game when both he and Todd Graham were seen in a heated argument with each other on the sideline in the third quarter of the Devils' 30-17 win over the Beavers.

While no details emerged from that situation, and Graham said they'd handle it "in house," Bradford mentioned that he did learn a couple of things from that little spat.

"Just to handle my composure," Bradford explained. "It's all competition, and I just have to know my place and know when to go hard and do what I have got to do. I just learned from it and have become a better person in that area."

There's no question that staying even keel in the upcoming game will be paramount for Arizona State, considering what's at stake. If the Sun Devils beat the ‘Cats, Arizona State will host the Pac-12 title game in Tempe, something very little people thought could happen at the beginning of the season, except the coaches and the players.

Todd Graham mentioned after the UCLA game that he had sat down with the coaches and players in the beginning of the year and asked the group to visualize what it would be like to host the championship game on December 7th.

Sun Devil Stadium hasn't been host to that big of a game in quite some time, and Bradford recognizes what an opportunity it would be.

"Man, it would be amazing to host the Pac-12 championship here," Bradford said. "All these 70,000 fans screaming and raging for this Sun Devil team, it would be the best feeling I could ever have."

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