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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Football notes: Rivalry game brings urgency to Sun Devils

    UA linebackers Xavier Kelley (15) and Ronnie Palmer (33) combine for a tackle in a 19-17 Beaver win at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 22. We just have to focus on Arizona and hope that the fans and the media dont blow it out of too much preparation, Palmer said of Saturdays game with ASU.
    UA linebackers Xavier Kelley (15) and Ronnie Palmer (33) combine for a tackle in a 19-17 Beaver win at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 22. “”We just have to focus on Arizona and hope that the fans and the media don’t blow it out of too much preparation,”” Palmer said of Saturday’s game with ASU.

    Football Notes

    During the past two seasons, Arizona’s annual rivalry game with ASU became synonymous with a must win if the Wildcats hoped to play in a bowl game.

    Both games during the past two seasons Arizona had a postseason berth on the line and both times the Sun Devils ruined the Wildcats’ chances, winning 28-14 in Arizona Stadium in 2006 and squeaking by with a 20-17 win last season in Tempe.

    The stakes remain this season for one team in the “”Duel in the Desert,”” but this time it is the Sun Devils who must win if they don’t want their season to end in Tucson.

    “”There has obviously been a lot on the line the last two years. When you look we have really lost two opportunities to play in the postseason in this game,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops in his weekly press conference Monday. “”Now the shoe is kind of on the other foot this year.””

    With ASU hoping to make its fifth straight trip to a bowl game, the Wildcats have spoken out in terms of how badly they want to win the game, but redemption isn’t the sole motivation.

    “”It doesn’t change anything that much. We just have to focus on Arizona and hope that the fans and the media don’t blow it out of too much preparation,”” said senior captain Ronnie Palmer, who will play his final game in Arizona Stadium. “”We need to take care of Arizona, and if we prevail it will be redemption and we will love it and we can talk about it then.””

    The Sun Devils began the season 2-6 (1-4 Pac-10), but they have since rattled off three straight wins over both Washington schools and UCLA.

    ASU turned some heads Saturday in its 34-9 win over the Bruins, scoring four defensive touchdownsÿ- which tied the NCAA recordÿ- to keep its bowl hopes alive while knocking UCLA out of contention for a postseason berth.

    “”Arizona State has done some awfully good things down the last month of the season, so they are getting hot here late and made some great defensive plays the other night to really put the clamps on UCLA,”” Stoops said. “”We look for them to be the same and do the same things they have been doing.””

    ASU certainly wouldn’t like to see that.

    As impressive as the UCLA game was for the Sun Devils, the offensive unit only managed 122 total yards, which continued the streak of offensive struggles for ASU.

    This season, ASU’s scoring offense is ranked No. 76 in the Football Bowl Series (24 points per game), 91st in total yards (323 yards per game), and a lowly 113th in rush yards (93.7 yards per game).

    “”They are going to rely heavily on (quarterback) Rudy (Carpenter) to make plays for them and try to have some balance with their run game with (running back) Keegan (Herring),”” Stoops said. “”That’s been hard for them, but you still see them putting a lot of time and effort in trying to have a lot of balance in their offense.””

    If there is one thing ASU can use to sleep a little easier, it’s that the defense is arguably hitting its stride at the perfect time. The Sun Devils, strapped by inconsistency on offense, have relied on a defensive unit that has not given up a touchdown in 10 quarters.

    In the team’s last game, all four touchdowns scored came from the defense.

    “”Defensively they are playing very consistently,”” Stoops said. “”They are making it hard for people to score, so they have a streak going and it will be a big challenge for us.””

    Livengood behind Stoops regardless of ASU game

    Having become bowl eligible almost a month ago, Stoops’ job certainly seemed secure after enduring a year full of talk about the head coach being on the hot seat.

    After Arizona dropped its last two games and is now in danger of falling to 6-6, Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood said Monday he is behind Stoops 100 percent regardless of Saturday’s outcome against the Sun Devils.

    “”I have said that every way I think almost humanly possible,”” Livengood said. “”I don’t think I have ever backed off from that. I don’t think I have ever said anything different. … We have made great improvement.””

    But Livengood is still focused on the “”Duel in the Desert.””

    “”I think at this point, this stage, this week, right now, I think the last thing on anybody’s mind including ours is a bowl game,”” Livengood said. “”… This is about playing our rival,”” Livengood added. “”This is about playing ASU on Saturday.””

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