On October 22, 2005, it all began.
And 23 months later, it's a much different situation for Rudy Carpenter going into Stanford Stadium to take on the Cardinal.
On that dreary Saturday in the farm, Carpenter entered a game in which the overrated Sun Devils were getting thrashed by an inferior Stanford team and nearly led Arizona State all the way back from down 45-7 to win. The Devils lost the game 45-35, but in the 4th, Carpenter came in and went 19/25 for three scores and a two-point conversion.
Rudy, who replaced Sam Keller in that game due to injury (no word on whether or not Keller was at a Bobby Reid-style chicken feed), went on to be the nation's most efficient passer in 2005 and led the Sun Devils to a spirited final stretch and win over Rutgers in the Insight Bowl.
It's now 2007, Carpenter is a junior, and the Devils are on the brink of possibly doing something very special by starting the season 5-0. That chance comes at the same stadium, albeit renovated, where he got the ball rolling as just a freshman.
Stanford, despite a coaching change and stumbling to a 1-2 start, is still not a team to be taken lightly. The Cardinal scored 28 straight 2nd-quarter points against a high-powered Oregon team last week and held a 10 point lead at halftime. They, of course, did go on to give up 34 unanswered ponts after the break and lose 55-31, but that performance in the first half shows the kind of resiliency that Jim Harbaugh is bringing to Palo Alto.
The Cardinal have weapons. Anthony Kimble is an agile and speedy running back who Oregon, a defensive pain, struggled to contain for a while. T.C. Ostrander should be a name familiar to Sun Devil fans, but he's still unproven. Stanford has a dynamic receiver combination in Mark Bradford and Richard Sherman; they're by no means among the elite in receiving in the Pac-10, but they're a serviceable pair that will consistently catch the ball. Granted, they suffer due to Ostrander's inconsistency and inaccuracy.
Stanford doesn't pose much of a defensive threat. Don't let their 37-0 shutout of patsy San Jose State fool you; this team can't play much D. Before the SJSU game, Stanford gave up 45 to a UCLA team that has since not been able to post any significant offense, and then they gave up the aforementioned 55-spot to the Ducks.
ASU will be able to score on Stanford, but of course, that's what we all thought about the 2005 team on their trip to the Farm. However, ASU carries a more dyanmic, balanced offense into this match-up and should be able to roll on to Washington State still without a blemish.