There haven’t been many nights like this for Rudy Carpenter, when his receivers are catching passes and Arizona State is scoring touchdowns and a Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium is just so much fun.
He’s had to slog his way through the season, and when he hit his nadir — throwing for 33 yards against Oregon — you wondered if he’d find his way out of the fog.
Well, for one night at least, Carpenter was an oldie and a goodie. Check out these numbers from ASU’s shockingly easy 47-14 victory over Washington State: 15-of-24 passing for a season-high 339 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 31 yards. Welcome back, Rudy.
“I was feeling good,” he said.
Gee, you think? This was the ASU offense we’ve grown accustomed to. Coach Dirk Koetter was ultra-aggressive from the first possession, and a grateful Carpenter felt like he was handed a get-out-of-jail-free card.
“We didn’t have anything to lose, so why not? Let’s throw it,” Carpenter said. “Coach told me before the game we’re going back to old-school ASU.”
Carpenter threw for 130 yards in the first quarter alone and would have had more if his receivers hadn’t dropped three passes. Once the wideouts started holding onto the ball, Carpenter was unstoppable.
Gone was the indecisive, unsure quarterback of earlier this season, and if one throw could sum up a night’s worth of brilliance, it was a picture-perfect 62-yard touchdown strike to Brandon Smith after Washington State had closed the gap to 30-14.
Carpenter made just one poor decision — a third-quarter interception in which he threw back toward the middle of the field as he scrambled right — but for most of the night he again was the cocksure QB who led the nation in passing efficiency last season.
Carpenter said he was inspired in part by Rutgers’ victory over undefeated Louisville last Thursday. He saw how much fun the Scarlet Knights had and decided to follow their lead.
“Rudy played very well,” Koetter said. “It helps my confidence as a play-caller. We’re used to throwing the ball like that every week, but it’s the first time we’ve done it this year. We know what our offense is capable of. We just haven’t done it.
“I tell the guys all the time, ‘You want us to throw it deep, make some plays.’ ”
The much-maligned wide receivers did just that. Zach Miller was still the go-to receiver, catching six passes for 84 yards, but Smith, Michael Jones and Chris McGaha caught a combined five passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
One game isn’t a coming-out party, but it’s nice to know Miller has some help out there.
“We made a lot of plays but we had a lot of mistakes out there,” Jones said. “We could have been outstanding.”
At this point, just adequate will do.
Beating Washington State normally isn’t imperative. But it was Saturday.
Earlier in the day, the University of Arizona had stunned No. 8 California, and it was being duly noted by frustrated Sun Devil fans that Wildcats coach Mike Stoops had four wins over Top-25 teams compared to Koetter’s two.
Losing to the Cougars would have eroded whatever support Koetter still had and intensified calls for his head.
Instead, he and the Sun Devils can feel good about themselves this morning. They haven’t done anything to change the texture of the season, but at least they’re not looking up at the Wildcats in the Pac-10 standings.
That’s OK in basketball.
That’ll get a coach fired.