Carpenter, ASU Have Much to Prove vs. Texas

According to Sun Devil QB Rudy Carpenter, the disappointment over not making a BCS bowl is gone. ASU's trademark resiliency has put that issue to rest. Nonetheless, playing the role of the underdog in the Holiday Bowl against a storied program such as Texas, gives the maroon and gold an opportunity to show the college football world that they were worthy of a January post-season game.

"Texas is a good team and people think that because they're Texas, they're better than us," said Rudy Carpenter. "I think more importantly than that, we have a lot to prove to everybody else. We wanted to be in a BCS game and I think this is a good time to show everybody that we should have been in one of those BCS games."

ASU's junior signal caller has begun to watch game film on the Longhorns, and is not only impressed by the physical nature. "More importantly they got unbelievable tradition there and they'll be ready to play against us," Carpenter stated. "They're the 2005 national champions and have been at the top of their conference for at least the last ten years. So it's something that we're trying to get to and we're gonna start doing it playing in the Holiday Bowl against them."

Friday morning marked the first practice in over two weeks for the Sun Devils. Consequently it was defined by being somewhat sluggish as the squad tried to shake off the proverbial cow webs. "It felt good to be out there on the field after a pretty long vacation. Felt good to come out there and sweat a little bit," said Carpenter. "I think guys are tired and a little winded. We have to get back to shape a little bit, and keep working hard. It definitely did seem like it as been a while."

Despite the natural lethargy seen in practice, Carpenter relishes the fresh start that these bowl practices offer. "It's probably the only time, other than the first couple games of the year, where you feel like you're 100%, which makes a big difference."

On the other hand, a long layoff can carry some negatives, as the team beings to practice for post-season play. "Sometimes it feels like it's a long ways away, and I think sometimes mentally you can get out of the game," Carpenter explained. "It's good that we got some time off, get a chance for our bodies to heal. Now it's time to lock in and to start preparations for a bowl game, and you have to be focused more so than other games."

In regards to his ailing thumb, Carpenter reiterated that he won't need surgery on it and that the recent rest, as well as the future layoff, has and will aid this injury. "I feel good. The time off helped me feel better and recover a little more," he commented. "I think my thumb feels as best as it's gonna be. Obviously it's gonna take some time after the season to be 100%, but it feels good."

Banged up thumb or not, Carpenter attempted two unconventional shovel passes in a win over Arizona. He claimed that one was out of necessity, while the other was a pass a play he would like to get back. "The first one I threw (for a touchdown) it was more legitimate," he said. "Tyrice (Thompson) was open for just a split second and I had to get rid of it right now. To get the ball in a throwing motion would have taken too long. So to flip it up there was much more efficient and easier, than make a play on it."

"The second one, I probably should just have ran it and I was running it and in the last minute I wanted to throw it. That one was stupid…it's just part of playing the game. You just have to react to certain situations and that's what I'm doing…Coach said ‘that's how you draw it up.? And I said ‘yeah.'

Carpenter has witnessed the roller coaster career Tyrice Thompson has had, and was delighted that he saved his best for last in the last year donning the maroon and gold. "It was even better seeing him at his last game at home, on senior day, getting his first real opportunities to make some plays," Carpenter noted. "That was his first touchdown in his career and he wanted that more than anything. That's why he made such a great play on the ball…I wish we had Tyrice for a couple more years. He evolved into an emotional leader for us."

Another player who had a sensational game in ASU's victory over its archrival, was Chris McGaha. His acrobatic, while falling out of bounds, 31-yard catch has been talked about quite a bit not only in Sun Devil country, but also back in Carpenter's hometown of Westlake in Southern California.

"I was back home…and there were two questions that people asked me (the most) – the shovel (touchdown) pass and ‘who's that white kid you guys have playing at wide receiver'? It's kind of funny – everybody loves Chris. Everywhere I go, everyone I talked to, they always ask about Chris McGaha. He's an unbelievable player and that catch was amazing."

McGaha, who started all 12 games, leads all wide receivers in catches (52) and yards (751), yet the touchdown column is still blank. How often is he reminded and ribbed by his teammates over that stat? "Everyday," Carpenter replied. "We joke about it all the time. He seems like he caught a lot of balls where he has come so close. The U of A game, I think he landed (after that 31-yard catch) on the 1-yard line. Talking to Chris about it, obviously he wants to score a touchdown, but he's just happy that he's able to make plays for us and that we're winning games. Chris is a team guy."

Carpenter said that being a year older, a year wiser has helped McGaha in a tremendous way. "I think people forget Chris is still only a sophomore. Kyle Williams is only a sophomore. It's very rare that freshmen are capable of able to play at a high level in the Pac-10," Carpenter explained. "Chris played good at times last year, whereas this year he's stayed consistent all year long, playing well. With being a year older, you get more confident, you get faster, stronger, smarter, all those things."

In the 2006, the passing game was the glaring weakness of this ASU team. In 2007, not only did this deficiency do a sharp 180 degree turn, but also featured several jaw-dropping catches by the Sun Devil wide receivers. In a way, it appeared that the ASU wideouts have been helping Carpenter much more on the field, than in previous seasons.

"Myself and the wide receivers were kind of disappointed in what we did last year, as a group," Carpenter remarked. "I think one of the things that they stress to themselves – there are times where you're gonna want a perfect ball and catch it in stride, but they're gonna be times where you have to make plays for me too."

"With (Wide Receivers) Coach Yarber, they really understood the fact that if the ball is in the air – go get it. It's our ball and nobody else's ball. That's what they did – whether it was catching balls or knocking them down…Coach Yarber has made a big difference with those guys this year."

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