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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Like ‘Cats, Devils need to win rivalry game”

    A collection of different words can be used to describe this year’s college football season. Among them are “”surprising,”” “”unpredictable,”” “”unbelievable,”” “”jaw-dropping”” and “”shocking.””

    All apply to the No. 13 ASU football team.

    After starting the season 8-0 and being included in the conversation for a berth in the national title game, the Sun Devils’ rebuilding process looked to be ahead of schedule under new head coach Dennis Erickson.

    But after ASU lost two of its last three games – including a 44-24 trouncing by then-No. 11 USC on Thanksgiving – one word that wasn’t mentioned above seems to now be more applicable: “”disappointment.””

    “”We have lost two games, and we have had some disappointments, I guess, but you bounce back from those,”” Erickson said. “”If you lose a game, you have to fight back. We happen to have another game, probably the biggest game of the year, and our players are excited about that.””

    The Sun Devils controlled their destiny for a Pacific 10 Conference title and a Rose Bowl berth going into the USC game.

    With a victory over the Wildcats tomorrow, ASU still holds a chance at a possible Bowl Championship Series berth, in either the Fiesta Bowl or the Rose Bowl.

    If ASU knocks off Arizona and UCLA upsets USC, the Sun Devils will win their third Pac-10 title and continue on to the Rose Bowl.

    If ASU and USC both win, the Sun Devils can only sit back and hope for an at-large bid to the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale.

    “”It is the biggest game of the year, and that is how you bounce back, obviously, against the University of Arizona,”” Erickson said. “”Our guys will bounce back. They are excited about the opportunity to play Arizona, who is playing extremely well right now.””

    If the Sun Devils don’t bounce back, that could mean a trip to the Sun Bowl, or best-case scenario, the Holiday Bowl – two games that fall far short of their aspirations of a few

    weeks ago.

    ASU “”is very good,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “”I thought they were one of the most complete teams I had seen on tape when you look at what they have done on both sides of the ball and on special teams. When you look at USC, Arizona State and Oregon, they are all doing it on both sides of the ball.””

    The Sun Devils will look to the usual suspects when it comes to leadership in the annual Territorial Cup game, as ASU will be in need of solid performances from the Rudys: quarterback Carpenter and wide receiver Burgess.

    Both players have given big boosts in times of need.

    Despite being sacked more than any other quarterback in the Pac-10, and the third most in Division-I football, Carpenter has thrown 21 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. Carpenter owns the 14th-best passing efficiency rating (151.9) in the nation.

    “”He is a very tough player and is very resilient,”” said senior linebacker Spencer Larsen. “”He has been sacked more than any other Pac-10 quarterback, but they also have more wins than any other Pac-10 team, too.””

    Burgess has proven to be a spark during his entire career at ASU. He is one of only three active players in D-I football to have more than 1,000 yards rushing, receiving and returning in his career.

    Last week against USC, Burgess returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score to tie the game at 7 early in the first quarter. The return marked only the second time in the last 21 years a kickoff was returned for a touchdown at Sun

    Devil Stadium.

    Senior cornerback Antoine Cason said he expects Carpenter and the Sun Devils to come out firing.

    “”What they like to do is try and get after us and get us out of our game and put their crowd into it,”” Cason said.

    For ASU, it is about a possible Pac-10 championship and Rose Bowl berth. For Arizona, it is about maybe getting to a bowl game for the first time since 1998.

    “”I think ASU is going to want to come out and prove a lot,”” Larsen said. “”It wasn’t just a fluke that they won so many games in a row.””

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