December 4, 2007

Part I: UA Report Card

The No. 11 ranked ASU football team earned its 10th victory of the regular season for the first time since 1996 with a 20-17 victory over the University of Arizona in front of a sold out crowd at Sun Devil Stadium. After falling behind early to an opponent for the seventh consecutive game, the Sun Devils took over in the second half with stellar play from both sides of the ball. It was a complete team effort on senior night, and all 27 were sent out the right way.

Quarterback

"U of A is our biggest rival. Going into every year, it is the game we look forward to every year. It always seems to be these games are so sloppy and weird. When it comes down to it, we are just happy to get the win." -- ASU junior Quarterback Rudy Carpenter.

"To be honest, I was very disappointed with the way I played tonight. I didn't play very well, especially when we got down to the goal line. We had some chances to score and I just didn't do it." -- Carpenter.

It wasn't his best game, but Carpenter will take a win over UA any day. 17 incomplete passes was certainly uncharacteristic of the "pass-efficient" Carpenter, who himself said he didn't play particularly well. But it was still a memorable night for Carpenter. Most notably, when the creative signal-caller freestyle'd a few plays on the run, where he made two option-like pitch passes. The first one was caught for a three-yard touchdown by senior tight end Tyrice Thompson -- the second attempt should have been intercepted in the end zone by UA's Antoine Cason.

Other than the ill-advised idea to try the lucky pass twice, Carpenter made no other large mistakes. A long touchdown pass dropped by sophomore Kyle Williams could have been the capper on the night. Carpenter still managed to find nine different receivers, completing 20-of-37 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns. Even more encouraging than the zero interceptions thrown, was the fact that Carpenter was only sacked twice. Not only was he making smart decisions, he maybe have been making them quicker. Carpenter earned an A-.

Standout performer: Carpenter. He talked the talk - and walked the walk and is now 3-0 in games against the Wildcats.

Running Back

"Offensively, we weren't as efficient as we needed to be, obviously in the red zone." -- ASU head coach Dennis Erickson.

"They kept our offense from getting any rhythm throughout game and that was really was the difference. They did what they could to ice the game (running the ball) and get themselves in a leading position. It just seemed like we couldn't make a play." -- UA head coach Mike Stoops.

Against a defense that came into the game allowing 141.7 yards per game, the ASU running attack struggled to exploit the run-stopping inadequacies of UA. Sophomore Dimitri Nance was given the majority of the running responsibilities, carrying 22 times but was only able to total 58 yards. Though he was unable to break a run longer than 10 yards, Nance did a nice job of keeping possession of the ball, finishing the game without a fumble. Junior Keegan Herring was not much of a factor, carrying nine times for 36 yards. Both running backs each caught a pass, but helped the passing game out primarily with their blitz pickups. It was a quiet night for both, but they also didn't standout for making crucial mistakes. The running backs earned a B.

Standout Performer: Nance. Has a solid upper body -- with lightning fast feet. Now he must work on keeping them, so he doesn't fall down so easily.

Wide Receiver

"Chris McGaha is ridiculous. He makes some of the most ridiculous catches ever. It was an unbelievable catch. Chris is going to go down as one of the best ASU receivers ever. He is a great player." -- Carpenter.

McGaha had another solid performance, catching six passes for 83 yards. But most in attendance will remember his acrobatic catch in front of the end zone. The sophomore somehow caught the backside of the football, after most of the ball had gone through his hands. Not only did Carpenter think it was highlight-worthy, ESPN played the catch as the No. 2 highlight on Sportscenter. Also making a few tough catches, junior Mike Jones caught two passes for 33 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown grab to seal the game. The only miscues from the group came from senior Rudy Burgess, who fumbled on the opening drive and Williams. If Williams would have hauled in the sweet deep pass from Carpenter, the group would have earned a very high grade. The wide receivers earned a B+.

Standout Performer: McGaha. If the football thing doesn't work out, it's nice to know McGaha has a future on the AND-1 Mixtape tour. McGaha's crazy vertical leap and solid hands make him half man - half amazing.

Tight End

"I didn't know he was going to throw it, but I tell Rudy [Carpenter] all the time that if he puts it in the air I'll go get it. I do it all the time in practice. He threw it in the air and I got it." -- ASU senior tight end Tyrice Thompson.

In his last game at Sun Devil stadium, the senior tight end scored his first touchdown as a Sun Devil. His three yard touchdown grab was impressive, but his 30-yard grab was arguably even better. Thompson has brought athleticism to a position that was sorely lacking in that department after Zack Miller was drafted by the Oakland Raiders. Senior Brent, brother of "the Truth", certainly helped ASU, catching two important passes for 32 yards. The combination of Thompson and Miller combined to catch four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Because of the highlight-worthy catch from Thompson, and the blocking provided by Miller, the tight ends earned an A-.

Standout performer: Thompson. Considering he has played as many positions as Burgess, Thompson has been a hard-working, selfless player. It's nice to see someone who has helped with special teams and done everything asked of him finally get in the paint (end zone).

Offensive Line

"The whole offense played well. The running back played well, the linemen played well, the tight ends and the receivers played well." -- Carpenter.

Injuries really took a toll on the ASU offensive line against UA. Senior left tackle Brandon Rodd missed most of the game with a re-occurrence of his ankle injury, forcing Richard Tuitu'u. Also missing time, junior Paul Fanaika was replaced in the middle of the game by senior Robert Gustavis. Despite the unfamiliarity of having a make-shift offensive line, the group did a nice job protecting Carpenter. Though they only allowed two sacks, the run blocking was just average at the scrimmage (Herring and,Nance combined to average 3.0 yards per carry) and that's difficult to overlook. Because they were unable to produce a rushing touchdown, with several goal line opportunities, the offensive line earned a B-.

Standout performer: Mike Pollak. The center had one fumbled snap-exchange, but mainly silenced the interior defense of UA.

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