6:00 PM ET, November 25, 2006
Arizona Stadium, TUCSON, AZ
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter spent the last week listening to speculation about his future.
And after his Sun Devils whipped arch rival Arizona 28-14 Saturday, clinching a minor bowl berth, Koetter did little to dispel talk that he may soon be gone.
"It's been my privilege to be the head coach at Arizona State for the last six seasons, and if this is the end for me, it's a great way to go out," said Koetter, who beat the Wildcats for the fourth time in six seasons.
"I don't make the decision on that," Koetter said. "I've got the utmost respect for (athletic director) Lisa Love, utmost respect for (ASU) President (Michael) Crow. They're the decision-makers on that. They have to do what they think is best for Arizona State."
Questions about Koetter's future swirled at the end of another emotional, hard-hitting showdown for the 107-year-old Territorial Cup, the oldest rivalry trophy in major-college football. Love and Crow attended the game and participated in the postgame trophy ceremony but did not speak to the media.
It's obvious how the Sun Devils feel about Koetter, who has three years remaining on a contract worth $2.85 million.
"If a change is made, hypothetically, that would just be dumb, flat-out," ASU safety Josh Barrett said.
Ryan Torain, who rushed for 139 yards, was named MVP. A junior-college transfer, Torain thanked Koetter for offering him a scholarship.
Arizona State (7-5, 4-5 in the Pac-10) could be headed to the Las Vegas or Emerald Bowl, both of which sent representatives to the game. It will be the third straight bowl bid for the Sun Devils.
The Wildcats (6-6, 4-5), who snapped a three-game win streak, are bowl-eligible but are not guaranteed their first postseason bid since 1998.
"We didn't play with the energy you need in a big game like this," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "I don't know why. It is just the psychology of football. Nobody really understands it. They wanted it more than we did, simple fact."
It was clear that the Sun Devils had plenty of motivation -- and it sprung from rumors that Koetter's job might be on the line. ASU raced out of the locker room and grabbed a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
"We wanted to do it for him," said quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who threw for 214 yards and three touchdowns. "I know people have short memories. You beat your rival, they're going to forget about a lot of things."
In a controversial move at the end of training camp, Koetter declared Sam Keller his starting quarterback, then gave the job to Carpenter two days later. Keller soon transferred to Nebraska and Carpenter struggled at times.
Before the game, Arizona fans chanted "We want Keller!" as Carpenter warmed up in the end zone.
"I just laughed at them," Carpenter said. "They all think they know. We got up 21-0, they didn't have much to say after that."
Carpenter, a sophomore, led the Sun Devils to a victory over Arizona for the second year in a row. Although he threw three touchdown passes, Carpenter also was intercepted and fumbled deep in Wildcat territory in the first half, but he managed the game well after intermission.
"It feels good to beat U of A," Carpenter said. "It's good for our program, it's good for our team and it's good for our coach. People make a big deal about coach. He's done a lot for us. We all appreciate that. He gave a lot of us a chance and we never had one.
"Hopefully, our administration will make the right decision," Carpenter said.
For the second year in a row, the Sun Devils knocked Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama out of the game. Tuitama, who was sidelined with a concussion earlier this season, left the game after receiving a late hit midway through the second quarter. Stoops said Tuitama had suffered a "slight concussion."
Adam Austin replaced Tuitama and completed 11-of-30 passes for 99 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
"When they knocked Willie out, Adam came in rusty," Stoops said. "When they took that cheap shot and knocked him out, (Austin) had just started to warm up. It stopped our ability to move the football."
ASU outgained Arizona 429 yards to 168.
After the game, hundreds of ASU fans cheered as the Sun Devils hoisted the Territorial Cup in an otherwise deserted Arizona Stadium. Koetter was happy with the victory. But he also seemed philosophical as he talked about the job he's done at ASU, where he is 40-33 and has led the team to three straight bowl appearances.
"Everyone thinks it's a walk in the park to maintain a college football program in the Pac-10," Koetter said. "There's 10 good football programs in the Pac-10. They're all trying to get to bowl games. Everyone thinks it's just so easy to do it. It's not that easy."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-14||5-16|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||0-2|
|TD||11:32||CHRIS MCGAHA 26 YD PASS FROM RUDY CARPENTER (JESSE AINSWORTH KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||2:34||JAMAAL LEWIS 38 YD PASS FROM RUDY CARPENTER (JESSE AINSWORTH KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 78 yards.
|TD||0:51||ZACH MILLER 7 YD PASS FROM RUDY CARPENTER (JESSE AINSWORTH KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 7 yards.
|TD||11:55||SYNDRIC STEPTOE 6 YD PASS FROM WILLIE TUITAMA (NICHOLAS FOLK KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 51 yards.
|TD||0:26||MICHAEL THOMAS 22 YD PASS FROM ADAM AUSTIN (NICHOLAS FOLK KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 37 yards.
|TD||7:48||DIMITRI NANCE 1 YD RUN (JESSE AINSWORTH KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 23 yards.