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Rudy Carpenter takes a licking, keeps on ticking

9/7/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter knows how to deliver the ball -- he's one of the nation's most accurate passers -- but the reason he's climbing the Pac-10's all-time passing record list is almost as much about his ability to take a hit.

He completed 27 of the 36 passes he threw in the 15th-ranked Sun Devils 41-17 victory over Stanford, rolling up 345 yards with three touchdowns.

And after just about every throw , a Cardinal defender plastered him to the turf.

He was sacked only twice, but two roughing the passer penalties showed that Stanford fully intended to try to bust Carpenter into little pieces by any means necessary.

"He is one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-10 and in the nation," Cardinal linebacker Pat Maynor said. "He's a tough kid."

Added Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh: "Rudy was very impressive. I gained a lot of respect for him tonight. He took some hits. He was under pressure a lot, but he made some good throws and was very accurate."

Carpenter's lone mistake was second-quarter interception that led to a Stanford touchdown, which closed the gap to 13-10. Carpenter, sprinting to his left, uncharacteristically lobbed the ball into coverage and made things easy for Stanford cornerback Kris Evans.

"That was a terrible interception," Carpenter said.

It didn't take long for Carpenter to bounce back, though. With less than a minute before halftime, he parlayed good field position after the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds and a roughing the passer penalty into a touchdown drive, which he completed with a 45-yard scoring toss to Kerry Taylor.

"That was a huge play, scoring there just before half," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. "That was probably the turning point of the game, without question."

Carpenter completed passes to nine different receivers, often flinging the ball just before a defender flattened him.

It's hard on Carpenter, but not so bad for his receivers.

"It seems kind of easy out there right now, knowing where Rudy is going to put the ball," Taylor said. "I know where the ball is going to be every time."

Carpenter said he wasn't unhappy with his protection. In fact, he saluted the entire offense working together to put away the bugaboo of the 55 sacks yielded a year ago.

"I think our offensive line did a great job of picking up pressure today," Carpenter said. "I think our receivers did an even better job recognizing blitz and coming open on their hot routes."

Carpenter, who has made 33 consecutive starts, has thrown for 733 yards in the first two games, which is the most passing yards a Sun Devils quarterback has compiled to start a season.

He now has 69 touchdown passes, ninth most in Pac-10 history. He also has 8,731 career passing yards, which ranks 14th on the conference's all-time list. Another 300-yard effort next week against UNLV and he will pass Sun Devils legend Jake Plummer and former Washington State star Jason Gesser.

He's put up big numbers because he's one of the nation's best passers. But he's also had to survive. It's hard to imagine many QBs across the country who have hit the turf more in their careers.

Particularly one who never stays down.

"He knows how to take a fall," Erickson said. "He's had to take a few. It's amazing how many times he gets hit and gets right back up and makes plays."