Erickson Knows Importance of Senior Day

Coach Dennis Erickson has been here plenty of times before, but it never changes. Every year the importance of the last home game is magnified because it will be the last time that the senior class that have bled and sweat together for years will step on their home field for the last time.

"To me, Senior Day is really important that we all get together and let them go out the right way at home," said Erickson, "That's what this week is all about as far as I'm concerned.

"These seniors, you can go through them all, some of them have been here a couple of years, some of them have been here through their whole career, but obviously they've had a lot invested into this program, won a lot of football games, been leaders in this program and had a lot of success."

Topping the list is quarterback Rudy Carpenter. Despite what some people think, there is no dispute that Carpenter's stats place him as one of the best ever to line up under center for the maroon and gold. Carpenter needs only one win to tie Dennis Sproul for second all-time in wins, needs just five completions to pass Andrew Walter as the school's all-time leader, is 351 yards behind Walter for the passing yards record and needs just five touchdown passes to catch Walter in that category.

"You have to look at Rudy and what he's done. He's been a starter for a lot of years and won a lot of football games at that position, which is not an easy thing to do. What he has accomplished at that position is about as good as anybody who has ever played here, at that position."

Despite the stats, Carpenter has taken a lot of heat, but has brushed it off to continue etching his name in ASU history.

"I don't want to point one out and not the other, but when you look at what Rudy has accomplished, statistically and as many games as he has started at that position without being hurt, it's pretty amazing to me."

This year has been extremely tough for Carpenter; accumulating just four wins so far in his senior season wasn't expected.

"He's handled what has happened this year. Obviously, when you're a senior and you've had the success that he's had, and to only have won four games right now in his senior year, obviously it's disappointing, not just to him but to everyone else in the program. He's handled it very well."

"Obviously we've had a new offensive front and there are just a lot of different things that he's dealt with. I compliment him, because he's never sat there and complained or done anything like that. He has just played. Like anybody in life, you mature. Since I've been here, how he handles things is awfully good as far as I'm concerned."

Another key senior that will leave Sun Devil Stadium for the last time on Friday isn't like Carpenter. Troy Nolan didn't spend five years in Tempe, just two after transferring from the College of the Canyons. The same can be said for fellow junior college transfers Luis Vazquez and Morris Wooten.

"Well, you take Troy, Luis, Morris, they've had a tremendous impact on what has happened in last two years on defense; there's no question about it," said Erickson, "You get junior college players and they help the program get better, and obviously we were very fortunate in getting those guys."

"They've had a great impact on how we've played defensively. Luis has had a great career, Morris has had a great career and Troy has had a great career, in the two years that they've played. They've had an impact on Arizona State."

The Devils head into Senior Day riding a two game winning streak. Erickson feels that those wins have given his team confidence.

"It's always easier after you win a couple games obviously. A bye is a lot more fun after you win a game. Again, we understand where we are at, but we've had some success and that always helps."

"Having confidence always helps, and they're (UCLA) the same thing. You can take our two teams and they are very similar. Our records are similar, we're both pretty good on defense, and both have struggled at times offensively. It's very similar and we're all trying to fight for the same thing; trying to get that fifth win. So it's very similar."

In order to get that fifth win, the Devils will have to figure out a way to score points on UCLA's stout defense.

"They are as good of defense as we've seen. You take their two tackles, Brigham Harwell and Brian Price; those are dominating football players that make it very difficult. If you're good in the middle, like they are, and penetrate and create problems, that's where it starts," described Erickson, "They have a lot of experience in their front seven, and their secondary has played very well for them."

"So, they're one of the better defenses that we've seen. They get four-man pressure. When you can get four-man pressure, you can play zone behind. They'll play man and zone, but when you can get four-man pressure, you can play zone, so you have to be able to throw it in the right places."

It will also be the return home of Rick Neuheisel, who is in his first year back in the Pac-10. Neuheisel and his family moved to Tempe from Madison, Wisconsin and graduated from McClintock High School in 1979.

"I like Rick. He's an outstanding football coach," said Erickson, "I competed against him when he was at Washington and he'll get that program going in the right direction. It's his alma mater, a place that he feels very strongly about. He's very well known and a good recruiter. It's good to have him in. As I've said before, there's not a bad coach in this league, and he just adds to it."

That is one of the many reasons there is so much parity in the conference. Anybody can knock off anybody.

"There's so much parody in our league that people knock each other off and every week is a hard game. I think when you end up playing each other, it almost prepares you for playing anybody, and I think that's what has happened. I think as these teams go into the bowl opportunities you'll see some pretty good success there."

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