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ASU football headed to Sun Bowl

 by Christopher Drexel  published on Monday, December 6, 2004

<em>Kelley Karnes/THE STATE PRESS</em><br>
Junior offensive lineman Drew Hodgdon talks at a press conference Sunday night about ASU going to the Sun Bowl./issues/sports/football
Kelley Karnes
Kelley Karnes/THE STATE PRESS
Junior offensive lineman Drew Hodgdon talks at a press conference Sunday night about ASU going to the Sun Bowl.
 

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The ASU football team didn't get much luck when bowl bids were being handed out on Sunday, but the team knows it could have done much worse.

The Sun Devils (8-3) will face Purdue (7-4) in the Vitalis Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas. They were hoping, however, to be in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 30.

For that to happen, No. 4 California (10-1) must have been selected to play in the Rose Bowl. But the Golden Bears were edged in the final Bowl Championship Series standings by Texas (10-1), and will instead face Texas Tech (7-4) in the Holiday Bowl.

"As of late we've had some bad luck, so I wasn't surprised this was going to happen," ASU senior center Drew Hodgdon said. "But I feel a lot worse for Cal than I do for us. They've had an amazing season, and I think they deserve to be in a BCS bowl. This isn't much of a slight for us."

Hodgdon added the biggest disappointment lies in the geography of the game, but the team is excited to face its third Big Ten team of the year in Purdue after dispatching of Northwestern and Iowa earlier in the season.

"I don't think anybody is questioning our opponent," Hodgdon said. "I don't know exactly what the bowl activities are going to be, but I know its not going to be floating in the ocean in San Diego. Still, I'm a senior and I'm really happy we didn't get slighted over to the Insight.com bowl or something like that."

Traditionally, the squad that finishes first in the Pac-10 makes the Rose Bowl and the No. 2 team in the conference makes the Holiday Bowl, but since No. 1 USC is headed to the Orange Bowl to play for the national championship, many expected the Golden Bears, who's only loss came by a touchdown to the Trojans, to make the Rose.

Texas's lone loss came to No. 2 Oklahoma by a 12-0 score.

"Any way you do the system, BCS or otherwise, there is going to be someone who is going to be unhappy and unfortunately it's Cal this year," Hodgdon said. "They lost to the No. 1 team and Texas lost to the No. 2 team, and you'd almost think it would be that simple, but unfortunately it's not."

When asked about the Pac-10 getting slighted by national voters, ASU head coach Dirk Koetter took a politically correct approach.

"Lets say the truth," he said. "We are the third place team in the Pac-10, and the third place team goes to the Sun Bowl. So I don't think we have anything to be upset about. We have to put this in perspective that we were a team on the outside looking in on these bowl games last year. When the competitive juices start flowing and we start to look at Purdue tape, with a national television audience on CBS, I'm sure we'll be fired up."

The game could have been a matchup of two of the country's top quarterbacks in injured ASU senior Andrew Walter and Purdue senior Kyle Orton. Yet the Sun Devils are still excited to face a signal caller who spent much of the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

"When I heard we were playing Purdue, it made me feel a lot better about playing in the Sun Bowl, because I knew our defense would get a lot of chances to get out there and put some pressure on him [Orton]," senior defensive end Ishmael Thrower said.

The Sun Devils last played in the Sun Bowl in 1997, defeating Iowa 17-7. But many players still on this year's team have fond memories of the Holiday Bowl, which ASU last played in 2002, narrowly losing to 34-27 to Kansas State.

"We've been to San Diego before so we had plans to go certain places, and the whole week in general was going to be exciting," senior defensive end Jimmy Verdon said. "But I haven't heard too many good things [about El Paso]."

Oh captain, my captain

Both of the Sun Devils' two-year captains, Walter and senior safety Riccardo Stewart will undergo shoulder surgeries on Tuesday, and will miss the Sun Bowl. Stewart has had a history of bad shoulders and will have the procedure done in the Valley. Walter will travel to Birmingham, Ala., to repair the grade-three shoulder separation he suffered against UA on Nov. 26.

Reach the reporter at christopher.drexel@asu.edu.



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