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Georgia a ‘big deal’ opponent for ASU

Sun Devils QB knows No. 1 Bulldogs will be a tough test


The Atlanta Journal-Consitution

Friday, August 22, 2008

Some people at Arizona State are trying to downplay the visit of No. 1 Georgia on Sept. 20.

Not Rudy Carpenter, the Sun Devils’ quarterback.

“It’s a real big deal,” Carpenter said. “This is something that is unique for our program. Georgia is No. 1 in the country and obviously they are a talented team. Our fans are fired up. We all want to see how we’re going to do against that caliber of competition.

“When an SEC team comes to your place, it’s a big deal.”

Arizona State got a taste of what is to come in 2005 when LSU came to Tempe. The game was supposed to be played in Baton Rouge but was moved because of the damage created by Hurricane Katrina. LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell threw a 39-yard touchdown pass with 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining to give the Tigers a 35-31 victory.

“We took those guys right down to the wire before we lost,” said Carpenter, who enters the 2008 season with 31 consecutive career starts and 7,998 yards passing. “It hurt to lose but it made us a better team.”

The chance to get a true gauge on the Arizona State team, said Carpenter, is the significance of the Georgia game. The Sun Devils play at No. 3 USC on Oct. 11.

“Once we play Georgia, we will get a good sense of what we need to do if we’re going to beat USC,” Carpenter said. “Southern Cal has a big, fast defense. That is what we expect from Georgia.”

Arizona State went 10-3 last season and tied USC at 7-2 for the Pac-10 championship. The Trojans got the Rose Bowl berth by virtue of beating the Sun Devils 44-24 on Nov. 22 in Tempe.

With Carpenter, the leading returning quarterback in the Pac-10, and a defense that should be improved, some are picking Arizona State as a dark horse to steal the conference title from USC. Coach Dennis Erickson, in his second season at ASU, says that’s a reach. But he admits he’ll know a lot more about his team after Georgia.

“The teams that win this league play great defense and USC looks like an SEC team when it comes to their defense,” said Erickson. “They have the huge linemen, like Georgia, who can run very fast. If we can block Georgia, then we’ll have a chance against USC.”

Arizona State and Carpenter enter this season with a couple of huge question marks:

• The Sun Devils gave up an incredible 55 sacks in 2007. They spent a good part of the offseason trying to find better ways to protect the quarterback. That area must improve before Sept. 20 because the Georgia defensive front seven is just too fast.

“There are a lot of factors that go into a sack,” Carpenter said. “Some times there are breakdowns on the offensive line but other times I just held the ball too long and the sack was my fault. I’ve worked on getting rid of the ball sooner.”

Carpenter, for all of his talent, has not been embraced by the Arizona State fan base. Some still harbor bad feelings from an incident that happened two years ago when former head coach Dirk Koetter named Sam Keller the starting quarterback ahead of Carpenter. About 48 hours later Koetter changed his mind and named Carpenter as the starter.

Keller immediately transferred to Nebraska. The rumors were off the charts and created bad feelings. Carpenter once had a water bottle thrown in his direction at an Arizona State basketball game.

“When I got here (in 2007) I found that a lot of the pressure on Rudy stemmed from the Keller situation,” Erickson said. “I think sometimes they put too much on him to win the game. We’ve tried to take some of that off of him.”

Despite the controversy, Carpenter knows that this is the season for which he will be remembered and his chance to leave a very strong legacy. He’s added about 15 pounds of muscle and will play at 225 this season. He needs 2,619 yards to become the school’s all-time passer. He needs 21 touchdown passes to become the all-time Arizona State leader in that category. He has a chance to become the first Arizona State quarterback in history to leave with four straight wins over Arizona, its rival.

Will all of this happen for Rudy Carpenter in 2008? Get back to him after the game with Georgia.

“Once we’ve played them we’ve played one of the best teams in the country,” Carpenter said. “I don’t think anybody we play is going to be better than Georgia.”


• Born: April 15, 1986.

• Hometown: Westlake, Calif.

• High School: Westlake. Los Angeles Daily News offensive player of the year. Listed as No. 36 player in California by SuperPrep magazine. Threw for 2,705 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior.

• Personal: Has already earned his Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Big boxing fan who grew up around the gyms of California.

• Career highlights: Enters the season with 31 consecutive starts at quarterback. With 7,998 yards, he enters the 2008 season fifth in career passing yards among returning quarterbacks. In 2005 he was the most accurate freshman passer in NCAA history with an efficiency rating of 175.01. …Passed for 3,202 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Needs 2,619 yards to become the school’s all-time passer.

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This is a swing game for ASU if they win this game they will go on to win the PAC-10, IMO if they lose this game they will most likely finish thrid or even fourth in the PAC-10.

I don't know about that. i think a lot of that depends on how they play uga and if it's a close loss. If it's a loss that is respectable it could help propel them, but if uga comes in and destroys them it could hurt them.

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