And here we are.
Expectations failed and a season hanging in the balance. It all defines ASU football’s first 11 games and exemplifies its final, impending one.
And while the failures of this season seem to shadow the light of those once lofty predictions, Saturday’s Duel in the Desert in Tucson is shaping up to be nothing short of epic.
For there are far greater things than meager bowl games at stake Saturday. There are legacies at stake.
After a 2-6 start, ASU somehow finds itself one win away from a meaningless postseason game.
But it’s a postseason game nonetheless, and last I checked they still play it and put a banner up in its honor.
However, this is actually the smallest piece of the puzzle.
This upcoming game, for me, a fan of ASU (there, I said it), and a fan of UA (there, I said it), has such poignant meaning.
I’ll tell you who I am rooting for.
His name is Rudy Carpenter.
Belittled, insulted, teased and taunted, Carpenter has withstood it all.
And that’s just from his home fans.
Carpenter redshirted my senior year of high school behind ASU’s most proficient quarterback, Andrew Walter, who has thrown for the most yards and the most touchdowns in school history.
Since coming in for Sam Keller during my freshman year here, Carpenter has started every single game, 42 straight.
I think one against USC would have been enough for me.
He’s 250 yards away from tying Walter as the all-time passing leader for the Sun Devils, and one win away from being ASU’s second-winningest quarterback behind Danny White. He’s led ASU to three straight bowl games, and possibility a fourth.
Yet, up and down, he’s been the man we point the finger at.
“Go figure,” they say. “The quarterback takes the unfair reward and unfair blame.”
Maybe it’s true. At times, Carpenter wasn’t ASU’s most popular athlete.
Neither was Barry Bonds.
And of this undeserved credit quarterbacks sometimes receive?
How about 80 career touchdowns, five behind the school record, and his ASU-record 786 career completions? And alongside White, Carpenter is the only other quarterback in school history to start three bowl games, with the chance to break that record should he beat UA Saturday.
So if, while describing the failures of the ASU football team, you happen to mutter “Rudy Carpenter,” be aware of your idiocy.
Football is not won by one player, nor is it lost at a single position.
Some help and some don’t. Rudy has always helped.
It all leads back to this rivalry: Two quarterbacks end long tenures this Saturday.
Willie Tuitama has been an absolute warrior for UA and has gained similar accolades.
And while he’s already secured UA’s first bowl game of the new millennium, he, unlike Carpenter, has yet to beat the Sun Devils.
So while the rivalry is always meaningful, this year is unique.
Watch the game, but really, watch the quarterbacks.
Because it’s pride, passion, and the one final way in which they’ll be remembered that’s really at stake Saturday.
And for me, as a senior who’s been lucky enough to take part in it all, even as a Wildcat fan, there will be a sincere dr
op in my stomach when Carpenter leaves the field for his final hurrah.
Such a drop that I am indeed rooting for him and the chance that he gets one more shot in a Sun Devil uniform.
God knows he deserves it.
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