It's Holiday in San Diego For the Sun Devils

Following Washington State's win over UCLA some still thought that ASU, the lone third place team in the Pac-10, would still be snubbed from the bowl game in San Diego. Nevertheless, today the Holiday Bowl officials voted unanimously to extend an invitation to the Sun Devils who will meet Kansas State on Friday December 27th at 6 P.M. (MT)

ASU's Athletic Director Gene Smith was thrilled about the school's post season plans: "We're obviously very excited about the opportunity to play in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl in San Diego. I want to thank the committee that went through their deliberations this morning. I also want to thank our alums and our fans who throughout the week shared with the Holiday Bowl how interested they were in participating. The Holiday Bowl was inundated with e-mails, phone calls, and faxes – so I would like to thank our fans for that effort." Smith encouraged all fans to take advantage of the travel packages that the Alumni Association has put together. "We need unbelievable support. We need to demonstrate that the Sun Devil family is a strong program, travels well, and have an economic impact in San Diego. This is great challenge to play Kansas State, one of the best programs in the country, and we need to make sure that our fans are there to support our kids."

The Sun Devil Head coach Dirk Koetter was "Pleased" and "Honored" over the Holiday Bowl selection. "We feel great that we finished in third place by ourselves. We'd love to finish first or second, but this says a lot for our team that we overachieved. The Pac-10 is a very tough league…We're able to go to the second place bowl game, and play against a quality team like Kansas State says a lot about where our program is headed."

Koetter spoke of the various opportunities that this game presents. "Where our program is at, I think our guys are excited to get another shot at a national caliber team like Kansas State. For our seniors it's the last time they'll wear a Sun Devil uniform, so they want to go out on a high note. This is an awesome reward for them. We sort of laid an egg against Nebraska in the opener, and this is chance for our players for a shot at redemption against a nationally ranked team." Following the bowl announcement, the Sun Devils skipper is happy to have some stability after a chaotic week. "This last week was hectic. You go from the big win at Arizona, to 12 in-home visits with recruits this past week. It's hard not to know where you're going (to a bowl), because we like to plan our stuff out. It's been an uneasy feeling. Now we can make our Christmas plans and move ahead"

Speaking of plans, the team will travel the Californian coast city on Saturday the 21st. That evening they will already participate in the first of many Holiday Bowl events. "We're still working on whether we practice here or in San Diego that day (the 21st). We'll practice Friday, Saturday, and Sunday next week. We're not gonna take off any days for Christmas. Santa Claus will be impersonated by Joke Kenn (ASU's strength coach)."

While the ASU coaches haven't seen Kansas State in action this year, they have nothing but respect for their last opponent in the 2002 season. "I haven't seen them at all. They have some tremendous players, and a very talented coaching staff. We have our work cut out for us, and we do look forward to that opportunity."

Coach Koetter has spoken in the past of the recruiting implications that a bowl game can present. When asked in specific about this topic, he seemed to downplay any ramifications the Holiday Bowl may have on the team's recruiting efforts. "There's been a lot said about that recruiting weekend (of December 20th), but that was a very small recruiting weekend. It's not small for those guys coming out, and we'll have to make some arrangements to either make it work that weekend, or switch it out to another weekend. At this point, it's such a small number (of recruits) we have to do what's best for both operations. For those few individuals that were suppose to visit, we'll try and accommodate as best as we can. I think in the grand scheme the bowl is a positive impact. Now you say ‘Holiday Bowl' behind Arizona State, and you get national exposure against Kansas State. So in the big picture (of recruiting) it's nothing but positive."

ASU's star quarterback Andrew Walter sees the Holiday Bowl as the team's prize for a successful 2002 campaign. "It's pretty sweet. It was a long season, and our hard work paid off. The Holiday Bowl is where a lot of guys wanted to go because they're from California, so it's like going home or them. Everybody likes the fact that we get to spend our weekend in San Diego. It's a great place." Walter had one of his many memorable games this season on the same field that the Holiday Bowl will be played on. After watching the San Diego State game from the sidelines for the first quarter and a half, he was inserted to the lineup after the Sun Devils fell 22-0. His first two passes went for touchdowns, and were part of a remarkable ASU comeback win. The sophomore is happy to go back to the scene of the crime. "We've been there once, and we're glad to be back. I have some very good memories from that stadium (smile). Hopefully, we'll get to make some new ones."

The ASU signal caller said that preparing for bowl three weeks away can be taxing. "It is kind of hard to focus. It's like when you're in camp before the season starts, and you wonder will it ever end – it's not that much fun. I think for the most part guys know this is the last chance and the last dance, and the focus level will be there because we're playing a very good team. We can't afford to let up. Kansas State is a great team, and we'll have to work very hard. This is a chance for our seniors to go out on a high note, and for the rest of the team to set the tempo for next year."

Note: For information on the Alumni Association travel packages please call 480-965-2381.

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