Ex-Sun Devils Reminisce About Rivalry

Mike Karney and Zach Miller donned the maroon and gold in dozens of ASU games. Yet some of their most memorable moments in their careers came against their archrival University of Arizona. Whether it was the hype leading up to the Duel in the Desert or just the actual play on the gridiron, both players admitted that these contests were by far the most intense settings they've been a part of.

Mike Karney is in his fourth year in the NFL, all playing for the New Orleans Saints. While he has already accomplished a lot on the professional level, playing in the Arizona StateArizona games, is also a source of great pride for the fullback.

"It's one of the greatest rivalries in college football," he said. "To say that I had the opportunity to play in this game four times is an honor. I won three out of the four games so I feel good about the rivalry. It really is a hated rivalry. The schools don't like each other. The fans don't like each other. I don't know how to put in a nicer way – that's just the way it is."

Playing in his first rivalry game his freshman year, at the end of the 2000 season, was "an eye opening experience" to how intense this game really is and how much it did actually live up to all the pre-game buildup. "After my freshman year I got a better idea how it was gonna be for the rest of my career in this game," he stated.

One of the ugliest moments of this rivalry came in the 2001 game at Sun Devil stadium. Following a 34-21 ASU loss, the Wildcat players proceeded to dance on ASU's Sparky mascot painted at midfield and a widespread fist fight between both squads erupted as a result. "That really showed me how big this rivalry is," said Karney, "and how much tension there is between the schools."

As a fullback, Karney's duties are primarily hitting opposing defenders and initiating contact. Karney claimed that the ferocity of those hits definitely picks up during the annual meeting with Arizona. "No question about it, it's the most physical game of the year," he commented. "It was for me – I know that for a fact."

Overall, Karney is very proud of his former college and what it has accomplished thus far in 2007. He asserted that the 9-2 record is extra gratifying since no one expected this with a brand new coaching staff. "They overachieved and watching it from afar it seems that they have bought into Dennis Erickson and what he has been teaching and preaching there," said Karney. "They're gonna go to a quality bowl and this will do wonders for recruiting."

All-American tight end Zach Miller played his prep career in Phoenix's Desert Vista, and naturally has a more unique perspective on the rivalry than players who came to ASU from out of state.

"The local players are obviously more familiar with the rivalry because that's what they grew up with," said Miller whose father, Tom Miller, is a University of Arizona graduate. "You know this game is Phoenix against Tucson."

Miller admitted that extra curricular activities, late hits, and trash talking are prevalent in a rivalry game. "But they're a lot of fun to play in. There's so much pressure to win this game," Miller commented. "The one thing the fans want the most is a win over U of A. Players on our team usually know a lot of players from U of A, so you really wanna have those bragging rights."

The tight end acknowledged that he's proud to have gone 2-1 against his school's rival, and was especially proud that those two wins helped the maroon and gold secure a bowl berth, which was always a goal the team wanted to accomplish. "Last year there was a lot rising on the line, because whoever won was going to a bowl game. So winning that game was a lot of fun."

Even though we caught up with Miller a couple of days after a win by his Oakland Raiders against the Kansas City Chiefs. A game many think is one of the best rivalries in the league. "You just don't have they type of rivalry in the NFL, that's definitely one thing you miss from college," said Miller. "You just know that this is a type of game you'll never play in again."

"I'll be watching the game, but I'll be wishing I was on the field…"

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