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October 2, 2011This season junior receiver Jamal Miles has had a receiving touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown, and even thrown a touchdown pass of his own. After Saturday night's game against Oregon State, Miles can finally add a punt return to the ever-growing list.
Thus far, Miles is the only player at the Division I level to have scores in all four categories. He's also the only one to take both a kick and punt return back for a touchdown.
Miles finished the night with 249 all-purpose yards in the Sun Devils' 35-20 win over Oregon State.
His 78-yard punt return came during a time when ASU held a narrow edge after a sluggish first half, leading the Beavers 14-13.
"That was a turning point, head coach Dennis Erickson said. "That was a huge play for us and obviously made a difference in the game."
The return was ASU's first since Terry Richardson against Arizona in 2005.
"We just had a lot of really great blocking down field, Miles said. "I just had to make two guys miss pretty much, and after that it was open field. It feels great to get a punt return. It was my first one of my career so it felt pretty good."
Erickson said Miles is a rare and dynamic weapon.
"He's a special athlete as we all know," Erickson said. "He's a guy that is a big playmaker in all aspects of it...When he fumbled the punt against Missouri everyone wanted him off the punt return team. But no way he was coming off that. He's just so explosive. If you see the return as we view it, there were two guys that came somewhat unblocked and he just made a move and took it up in the middle. But he's a weapon for us. I think there's no question he's one of the best return guys in college football right now."
After watching junior running back Cameron Marshall break through as many as half a dozen guys to reach the end zone, it was difficult to believe that he is still hobbling on an injured ankle that has affected him since the first week of fall camp.
"That was definitely my favorite run I've ever had," Marshall said. "It felt good. Kept moving my feet and guys kept bouncing off of me and I was able to put it in the end zone."
Marshall finished the night with two touchdowns and a total of 87 all-purpose yards. However, Marshall's first rushing touchdown, fitting for SportsCenter's "Top 10 Plays," not only wowed the crowd, but also his own teammates.
"It might have been the coolest football play I've ever seen," quarterback Brock Osweiler said. "I have a pretty good view back there from where I sit. Cameron just made an absolutely unbelievable football play. I don't know how many guys he ran through or lowered his shoulder on, but I think I saw at least four or five. He had this determination that he wasn't going down. Cameron's a pretty special player, and it was pretty cool to watch."
When sophomore cornerback Alden Darby put his new pink gloves on Saturday night, he had one purpose in mind -- to support his late aunt that passed away from breast cancer last year. However, little did he know that those gloves would give him more then just power within.
Darby intercepted passes from Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion not once, but twice for 40 yards -- his first two career interceptions.
"This was my first career interception as a Division I football player," Darby said. "I went back to the sideline and I was just overwhelmed, smiling with joy, I was just happy because this was my first interception. I didn't want to relax though, I was still out there holding, trying to make tackles and make plays. [The interception] put a lot of confidence in me, knowing that if I did my job it would probably come back to me again. I have to give a lot of appreciation to my defensive line for putting pressure on the quarterback and allowing me to get that interception."
Saturday night, Darby was often put in the nickel position, which ASU used much more than in previous games this season. It allowing him to flourish and make significant plays for the ASU defense. His lucky gloves came into use for more then just one reason.
"Darby had an unbelievable night," Erickson said. "We put him in the nickel situation and played with five DBs a lot in this game, which we will continue to do. He just adds some things to us in those situations and he's just kind of a natural player back there. He was big."
Senior defensive end Jamaar Jarrett's name may have been mentioned over a dozen different times Saturday night after making great tackles up field -- three for loss -- and often putting pressure on Mannion, getting credit for two sacks.
"Jamaar [Jarrett] had a heck of a day," Erickson said. "He was close so many times but didn't get it. He forced him out of the pocket. Jamaar last week against USC at the end of the game started doing some things pass-rush wise and started to turn into a pretty darn good player for us."
Center of attention
Starting senior center Garth Gerhart was knocked out of the game late in the first quarter with a severely sprained left ankle and replaced by sophomore Kody Koebensky, who drew praise from Erickson.
"If you lose somebody in the front, center is probably not the spot you want to do that," Erickson said. "Kody came in and did a really nice job. We've got to find out who our backup center is going to be because you get down to your third center you've got to move some people around."
Erickson said Gerhart was unlikely to play Saturday at Utah but would be re-examined later in the week.