ASU game special to seniors, former players

Whenever the Wildcats and Sun Devils meet up, emotions run high. Current and former players all feel something special when rivalry week comes around. This year it is the same thing. Even though both teams are struggling, the game loses none of the luster. Several players and a coach spoke out about the rivalry.

For seniors, this game is even more important. After a long, tough career it is a last chance to leave on a winning note.

"It's going to be emotional because it's my last," said Gary Love. "My last in an Arizona uniform. I'm just going to go out there and playing hard, playing our best and coming out on top. It's a great rivalry. I'm looking forward to it. We're preparing for it and we're going to be prepared. We're going to go up there and have fun. "

Even non-seniors recognize how important this game is for the guys. To a man the younger players want their older teammates to go out winners.

"We want to win this game for our seniors," said Keoki Fraser. "It'll be nice to send them off with a win."

Clay Hardt is one senior who can't wait for the game. Being from the Tucson area he has watched the rivalry since he was a child. Hardt is so excited to travel to Tempe that he had trouble expressing himself.

"A lot, a lot, a lot, a lot," Hardt said when asked how much this game means to him. "It's hard to put into words. When we won up there two years ago it was huge. It was one of my favorite games. If we win this time it is times ten.

"They don't like us. Because the whole time we are up there they are talking stuff. I just like to play up there because they don't like us and we don't like them. I can't describe it, it's such a hostile environment. It's so close to home, but it's not. They have a lot of signs and ugly colors."

Wildcat players don't mince words when it comes to their foes from the North. They could care less about bulletin boards or giving the Devils motivation. They know their mere presence in Sun Devil stadium is enough motivation.

"It's like a real hatred," Love said. "I went up there my freshman year and the fans try to spit on you and call you names. It's a real hatred, a real hatred."

Fraser agreed and added more fuel to the fire.

"We don't like those guys, we hate them," Fraser said. "We are looking forward to going up there and whipping their ass."

With attitudes like that on both sides, Fraser left no doubt as to what kind of game he expects to be played on Friday.

"I think it will be dirty and physical," Fraser said. "I expect a lot of pushing and shoving after the play. No one is going to a bowl game so no one is worried about getting suspended. They definitely remember us stomping on Sparky."

This is a special game for both the players and the guys who played in it in the past. Current players know that their part in this rivalry is not over when they graduate.

"I'll always have this game," Hardt confessed. "I grew up around it and when I graduate I'll still have it. I'll always be apart of it."

One former player now coaches in the rivalry. Wildcat coach Charlie Dickey is known for his passionate speeches before the game. His experience as a player is something he feels is unique to the staff.

"I think that's something the older guys share, that's something that I can share," Dickey said. "Having gone through the rivalry, that's something I can share with the younger guys."

For Dickey there is nothing like the ASU game. He normally shies away from the media, but for one week a year the former Wildcat offensive lineman has no problems sharing his thoughts.

"It just means so much," Dickey said. "For me, having grown up in Phoenix, growing up in the shadows of Arizona State and then coming down here to play it means a lot. I had family that went to school at Arizona State. Shoot, my sister was a cheer leader there. There's a lot on the line for me and a lot of the kids. It's a great, great rivalry and it's something that a lot of the guys appreciate."

Many of the former players come back to watch the game. The Wildcats invited a number of them to address the team. This year players like Eddie Wilson tried to pump up this year's crop of Wildcats. Dickey doesn't have time for too much reminiscing, but he does get to talk to some of the guys.

"They are all calling me and they are all wishing us the best because we are a big family here," Dickey said. "No matter what has happened here, we're all together in this." Hardt tried to sum up the rivalry, but words failed him. In typical Clay Hardt fashion, he's prepared to let his actions do the talking.

"I can't describe it. Just watch me play and that will describe it."

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