December 2, 2008

Carpenter hopes to finish career 4-0 against UA

Hate is such a strong word.

But when quarterback Rudy Carpenter was asked if he hated rival University of Arizona, the senior didn't say 'no.'

He opted for the more politically correct answer.

"I don't hate the people that go to UA, I don't hate the school, I don't hate the city," he said. "I just like playing against them and I don't like losing to them."

But in his nearly four years as a starter, Carpenter doesn't know what it feels like to lose to the Wildcats and on Saturday, he will try to become the only Arizona State quarterback in history to go 4-0 against UA.

As a true freshman in 2004, Carpenter, who was using his redshirt season, watched as ASU fell to UA 34-27 in Tucson and knew he never wanted to feel that feeling.

And now that he has the chance to go undefeated against his rival, Carpenter wants to seize the opportunity. It would mean a lot to him.

"For us seniors and myself it's a big game because (if we win) we can say we never lost to them," he said. "Anybody can say anything they want about what type of careers we've had, or what type of people we are, or whatever, but at the end of the day they're going to have to respect us a little bit about what we did here as far as playing against the University of Arizona."

But in order for Carpenter to reach that 4-0 mark, he will have to beat someone he became pretty familiar with this past summer - Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama.

When Carpenter was asked about Tuitama, you expected him to say he hated disliked his counterpart from Tucson, but that didn't happen.

The two spent several weekends with each other at various quarterback camps last summer and got to know one another pretty well.

Carpenter even called Tuitama "pretty cool," but did admit it was a little bit weird being around his rival-quarterback so much.

"He's a cool person. He's good to be around," Carpenter said. "He was a lot different than what I expected he would be like. I didn't know. I just thought he's from UA and he probably doesn't like me, but it wasn't like that at all.

"We got along. It was cool, but a little awkward."

In all the time the two spent together coaching kids, Carpenter never bragged. He didn't bring up the fact that he 3-0 against Tuitama.

In fact, the two didn't even really talk about the rivalry. They had conversations about football in general and as Carpenter put it, "tons of different subjects." They even kept in contact until the season began.

Carpenter doesn't know what Tuitama's stats are this season, but he knows Tuitama is a solid quarterback leading a much-improved Wildcat football team.

A sentiment echoed by Coach Dennis Erickson.

Tuitama is from the Bay Area and Erickson has watched him play since Tuitama was in high school and Erickson was coaching the San Francisco 49ers.

Recently, Erickson has found some traits in Tuitama that he sees in his quarterback.

"Great competitor. A guy that has improved," is how Erickson described Tuitama. "He's a huge leader. You can tell that he's a big leader on that football team. Him and Rudy are very similar. They're both very, very competitive. They both are fires.

"You can see why they (UA) move the football. He makes plays. He's smart. I can't say enough about him."

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