EUGENE, Ore. - On one of his many trips into the Arizona State backfield, Oregon defensive end Nick Reed offered to help ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter up off the turf to which he had just knocked him. Carpenter declined.
He wasn’t interested in anyone’s help — including the excuse-makers.
Despite a sprained right thumb that kept him from performing at 100 percent, an ear-splitting Oregon crowd and a blitz-happy Ducks defense that sacked him nine times, Carpenter still managed 379 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception in Saturday’s 35-23 loss.
By all accounts, it was a solid performance in the hostile Autzen Stadium environment.
But it was the missed opportunities on which Carpenter chose to focus after the game, particularly his team’s struggles in the red zone. “We got down there a lot and just couldn’t punch it in,” he said. “Eventually, when you play a good team like we did tonight, it’s going to cost you a game.”
The Sun Devils’ offensive line and running backs didn’t do Carpenter any favors. They failed several times in short-yardage situations and reverted to early-season form by missing a host of blitz assignments.
But Carpenter was also guilty of holding the ball too long at times, allowing the rush to reach him.
“They didn’t really do anything we didn’t expect,” Carpenter said of the Ducks’ swarming defense. “We just didn’t execute.”
Carpenter was limited in practice this week due to the sprained thumb he suffered last week against California.
He injured it again and walked off the field shaking and squeezing it after he banged it on a blitzing Duck’s helmet midway through the third quarter.
“It hurt like hell,” he said. “It obviously wasn’t 100 percent but it’s not an excuse.”