Carpenter Reflective as Last Home Game Nears

The beginning of his Sun Devil career was easy for Rudy Carpenter. As a redshirt freshman in 2005 he started in his team's last five games, helped salvage the season and led the nation in passing efficiency. From there on out, his journey had its fair share of bumps in the road, but as his ASU tenure inches to a close the senior is proud of his accomplishments.

"I never honestly would have thought it would be how it is," said Carpenter in his weekly press conference on Monday. "In 2005, I don't think anybody knew who I was, no one cared what I was going to do, so I just dropped back, saw a coverage and threw it up to someone like Derek Hagan, Matt Miller, or even Zach (Miller). Those guys made a lot of plays for me to help me look good. It's a lot different when you lose a lot of guys and things happen.

"I never thought it would have been this difficult, because after that season, I didn't understand why everybody is not good. I didn't understand what the big deal was. I remember the Washington game, my first start, I was extremely nervous in the hotel, and after the game, I thought, `why was I nervous? That was probably the easiest thing I've ever done in my life.' But, obviously, things haven't gone that way the rest of my career here."

The 2006 pre-season featured a well-documented battle for the starting position between Carpenter and Sam Keller, which ultimately resulted in Keller leaving the program. The signal caller once again helped ensure a winning season, but had to endure at the end of that year a coaching change.

If last year's 10-3 campaign was the ASU quarterback's finest year, this season's 4-6 mark has easily been the most challenging for the senior. All of the Devils' six losses came in succession, and Carpenter stated that he and the rest of the seniors were able to keep the ship afloat, with its large number of underclassmen, and help give the team a chance at post-season play.

"I think this group of seniors has gone through a lot," stated Carpenter. "We had to go through some up-and-down seasons when Coach [Dirk] Koetter was here, and then obviously last year we had a 10-win season. We thought we were a part of what was getting everything turned around to being 10-game winners every year. Obviously that didn't happen, but I think the group of seniors on this team has done a pretty good job.

"I think for some reason people questioned our leadership because we lost six in a row, but we did a good job of staying positive and trying to help all those young guys that we have playing, just staying upbeat and trying to find a way to just get a win, which is what we did against Washington. Fortunately, we're still in a situation where we can get into a bowl game."

Carpenter's durability, taking shots from critics as well as opponents, has always been put to the test. He currently as the nation's leader for most consecutive starts at quarterback with 41, and naturally he doesn't take that accomplishment for granted.

"I'm proud of it because it's something that's hard to do," explained Carpenter. "I never thought I would have started 40-something games before I came to school here. I'm also proud of the fact that I've been able to stay healthy enough to play, and when I haven't been healthy enough, I've still tried to play."

Carpenter added that the USC contest this season was the closest he came to snapping that streak, and it would have ceased if it wasn't for the faith head coach Dennis Erickson had in him to lead the team that afternoon.

When Carpenter's ASU career culminates, he will rank no worse than 3rd in every major statistical categories of quarterbacks. The stat that is the most significant to him is the all-time ASU starting quarterback wins where he can vault to the second spot if the team wins its remaining games this year.

"The way I judge a quarterback is by win and loss record," explained Carpenter, "because that directly correlates with his leadership I know I'm gonna leave here as probably the second in all-time wins leader.

"You can say it's against whoever we played, but that's how I judge myself. I know I had a successful career here and I'm proud of what I did here."

Carpenter, who grew up in the town of Westlake in Southern California, rooted for UCLA from a young age and the Bruins were ASU's fiercest competitor to land his services during the recruiting season. Carpenter claimed that playing UCLA in his last home game at Sun Devil stadium doesn't make this contest even more special, and took a very pragmatic approach towards this contest.

"I'm just thinking about it as a very important game to win," said Carpenter. "Obviously we're playing one-week seasons right now, to stay alive for the postseason. Hopefully all the seniors that we have on our team can play with a little bit more emotion this week and find a way to pull out a victory."

A win on Friday, will have to come against a defensive unit that Carpenter feels is one of the best in the conference.

"I think their front four is good, with Brigham Harwell and Brian Price, probably two of the better defensive tackles in college football," commented Carpenter. "They have a solid linebacker corps, both their corners are pretty good and both their safeties are pretty good. They struggled a little bit early in the year, and as the year has gone on, they've gotten a lot better.

"They've been playing good defense. They were 3-3 with Oregon State at halftime. They've been playing some close games, including against Oregon; they held that offense to minimal points early in the game. We're going to have our hands full with them. We've just got to keep a positive attitude."

Carpenter has given a lot of thought about what the Senior Day experience will be like on Friday, and has mixed emotions concerning this event.

"It was something that before I was looking forward to a lot," acknowledged Carpenter. "I thought it was cool and I couldn't wait for that to be me, but now I wish I had a couple of more games. It's a little awkward to think that I'm coming into the two final weeks of practice and two final games. It's pretty weird, kind of sad for me, but I'm glad that my family will be there. I'll have a lot more family than usual, so that will be good too."

Very few ASU players in recent memory have garnered the full assortment opinions from the media and fans as Carpenter has. The signal caller admitted that he has no idea what kind of crowd reception awaits him on Friday as he's introduced with the rest of ASU's seniors.

"I've asked myself that question a couple of times within this last week," he said. "I can't really worry about that or control that. I hope it's good. I know that I feel like I've tried to be a good Sun Devil, the best I can be, and I hope people will at least respect that."

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