Koebensky, Devils still with more to prove

As the Sun Devils and Wildcats prepare to renew their rivalry on the gridiron this Saturday in the latest version of the Duel in the Desert, the stakes at an all-time high. Even after winning the Pac-12 South last Saturday with Arizona State's victory over UCLA at the Rose Bowl, senior center Kody Koebensky has one thing on his mind this week and that's keeping the Territorial Cup in Tempe.

The works of an offensive lineman can often times go unnoticed or under-appreciated. Kody Koebensky knows this but it doesn't stop him from pushing himself each day, whether it's on the field or in the weight room or in the classroom. And while the Sun Devils are currently enjoying one of their finer offensive seasons in recent years with hopes of reaching the program's third Rose Bowl at season's end, a large reason for the team's on-field success this year - ASU enters the week averaging 41.9 points per game (11th nationally) and 472.8 yards per game (23rd nationally) - starts up front with Koebensky and the offensive line.

"I just go week-to-week," said Koebensky after practice on Tuesday. "I look at the things we could have got better on. If we had sacks, obviously those are the things I pay attention to the most. In terms of people saying, 'Oh you played good,' well, we had a sack and that's not acceptable. Unless it's perfection - unless Coach Thomsen says 'You guys played a perfect game' - there's always stuff to look at and get better on."

A number of factors have contributed to the offensive line's success in 2013, starting with the team's offseason training regimen. Another benefit has been the unit's stability as ASU has used the same starting offensive line in all 12 of its games this season which has allowed the linemen up front to develop the chemistry and cohesiveness needed to play to their potential and weather any adversity as a collective unit.

But they've also been battled tested from start to finish. Not many teams around the nation can boast the strength of schedule that Arizona State has played this season. Whether it was the dread four-game "gauntlet" to start the season, or the weekly grind of the Pac-12 competition, the Sun Devils starting front has seen its share of challenges throughout the year.

"That was a great learning experience," remarked Koebensky. "For me, playing against guys of that caliber - Stanford and SC and Notre Dame - it was a great learning experience for us as an offensive line and each individual. You can look back on that and say we played some of the best in the country. So it's nice to look back on that but the Pac-12 schedule isn't any easier. There are no gimmies in the Pac-12."

That experience was on display last weekend when Arizona State played in its biggest of the season on the road against UCLA with a chance to claim its first Pac-12 South championship. The Sun Devils started fast, racing out to a 35-13 halftime lead as the offense eviscerated the porous Bruin defense at will.

ASU gained 448 yards of offense for the game - their most in three weeks - as they stripped the Bruins of their two year reign atop the division in dramatic fashion, holding on for a 38-33 win.

"It felt great," commented the Scottsdale native and former Saguaro Sabercat. "I grew up watching ASU. I watched the Rose Bowl game when I was a kid - the '97 game. It's great. That's why I came here; to be a part of this history and I love the Sun Devils."

However, the tone at practice on Tuesday was not that of a team that had accomplished its goal and in search of praise, but rather that of one still on a mission.

"It was cool playing at the Rose Bowl," he said. "That's an incredible stadium and obviously we want to get back there but I didn't really feel like we accomplished much because that's not our goal, to be Pac-12 South champions. It's to be Pac-12 champions."

"Honestly, it was a good win for us and a great win for our program, but in terms of being fulfilled, I feel like that's not our goal. Our goal is to be Pac-12 champions."

Koebensky and his Arizona State teammates can take that next step this Saturday when they play host to Arizona in the annual Duel in the Desert. Not only would a Sun Devil win keep the Territorial Cup in Tempe for a second consecutive season, but it would also allow ASU to host next week's Pac-12 conference championship game as they look to exact revenge against Stanford for their early season drubbing in Palo Alto.

"It's the last chance we're going to have to play UofA, so obviously we'd like to go out with a win," added the senior. "UofA is a great team. They've been coached well. They've played extremely hard this season and they're very talented but as a senior you always want to go out with a win.

"The biggest thing is just focusing on what we need to do as an offense, defense, and special teams. As long as we focus on our job and each individual does what they're coached to do, that'll be the best way for us to put ourselves in a position to win."

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