But the limelight was temporary. He was only filling in for an injured Dion Bailey, who returned to his role a week later. Madden continued to back up the position throughout the season, but that game remains on his mind.
"I wish I could have [started] the whole season. It was great to be three freshmen out there and just experience that with them," Madden recalled.
It was an experience he wants again. And again and again.
As the Trojans kick off spring ball Tuesday, Madden hopes he can do whatever it takes to earn a more prominent role next fall.
"I got the play system down so my experience is a little bit more in depth and my confidence is rising," he said.
What will it take for the 6-0, 225-pounder to reach total confidence in his abilities?
"It can always go up. Getting on the field and making plays during spring and show the coaches more about me helps," he explained.
Even though he didn't get the amount of time he would have liked in 2011, his evaluation of his first year is positive as it was one that helped him grow, learn and adjust.
"Everyone wants to start going into their freshman year but just looking back on it it was a success because I got plenty of opportunities and got the feel of the game and the atmosphere," he said.
He'll have to outplay some tough competition to earn a starting spot at either strongside or weakside linebacker. Bailey and Hayes Pullard -- two redshirt freshmen -- were the team's leading tacklers last season.
Still, as much as the Mission Viejo (Calif.) High product would like one of those starting roles next year, he knows it's a team game and playmaking will eventually be rewarded.
"We all got speed and different movements but we're not making a big deal about who is starting and stuff because just as long as we get on the field and we're putting our tape out there, we know we're going to be seen.
"All of us the outside linebackers are learning each other's position because we're changing stuff up a little bit. We're learning more stuff this time around," he said.
This time around, Madden is much more knowledgeable about the playbook and the college game. Better yet, he's better at adjusting, whether it be to college, his role in the system or a new coach. That quality will reap dividends as Madden tries his best to impress -- and adjust to -- new linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton.
"It was shocking but we're adjusting. We like Coach Scott. We are just getting adjusted to him and he's getting adjusted to us. Now it's about seeing how we can execute for him."
If Madden can execute the way he hopes, that vivid November night will soon fade from his memory and be replaced with many more.