Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, December 21, 1999

carries a load
for Sun Devils

The 1,000-yard rusher will be
a key against Wake Forest

Bowl Notebook

By Paul Arnett


J.R. Redmond looked like a freshman running back seconds after he hears his name called in the huddle - jittery.

When asked to do an interview minutes after the charter flight touched down last Saturday afternoon, the talented tailback for Arizona State couldn't remove his headphones without a few trial runs first.

"Sorry about that," the first team all-Pac-10 standout said, his voice a little strained from the aftermath of a prolonged adrenaline rush. "But we experienced some turbulence on the way over here and I'm still nervous about it."

Several days in paradise have done little to ease Redmond's fears about the return trip to Tempe, Ariz. He even mentioned it during yesterday's Aloha Bowl press conference at Planet Hollywood.

"Turbulence?" asked Arizona State head coach Bruce Snyder in an incredulous voice.

"Coach, we had straight turbulence for at least 10 minutes," Redmond said. "You fly over the water for six hours, any shaking makes me nervous."

Snyder can only hope Wake Forest's defense will be shaking a little bit when the Demon Deacons see one of the nation's best rushers lined up in the backfield.

"I think maybe flying over all that water bothered some of the guys, but that flight was smooth," Snyder said, then smiled. "I guess I might have to sit next to J.R. on the way home."

It won't be the first time Snyder has remained at the side of his sometimes troubled back, whose well-documented problems off the field came close to overtaking him on it.

Redmond has put his personal problems behind him as he prepares for his final game in a Sun Devils' uniform. This season, the 6-foot, 220-pounder rushed for 1,085 yards and 12 touchdowns to raise his career totals to 3,210 yards and 32 scores.

He had a career-high 35 carries for 165 yards and three touchdowns against Washington State. Redmond managed not only 198 all-purpose yards in the win over Southern California, but had four solo tackles in his first start at strong safety as well.

"That was something I always wanted to do," said Redmond. "It was kind of a fun thing because you always hear about defensive players going to offense. I wanted to show an offensive player could go both ways, too."

With quarterback Ryan Kealy sidelined with a knee injury, Snyder will be counting on Redmond to do his thing on offense. The head coach is still unsettled on which quarterback will be under center in this Saturday's Aloha Bowl match with Wake Forest.

That means the pressure shifts on Redmond to be able to produce. If Arizona State can't run the football against Wake Forest, then it could be a long Christmas Day for the Sun Devils.

"Any time you lose a guy like Ryan, it puts pressure on everybody to step up their game," Redmond said. "I know I have to come out and perform this Saturday. And that's fine with me because I like that kind of situation.

"Wake Forest's defense looks good on film. We know this is going to be a difficult game for us, but we've played in a lot of tough games this season."

Deacons safety DaLawn Parrish sees stopping Redmond as a key to Wake Forest's success. If Redmond is bottled up, then Arizona State's offense will be forced to turn to someone else.

"You can tell they have a lot of speed on offense, starting with Redmond," said Parrish, who led a Wake Forest defense that finished second in the ACC to Florida State. "We have to keep their running game from being effective so their quarterback is forced to throw. You've got to get them out of their game in order to have a chance to be successful."

Snyder is well aware of this strategy. But because of the short practice time due to finals last week, he isn't planning any major changes. That means Redmond has to be prepared to carry the football early and often.

"J.R. has been a big part of our success this season," Snyder said. "And we'll need him to step up and play big Saturday to give us our best chance to get a victory."

Aloha Bowl

Bullet Who: Arizona State vs. Wake Forest
Bullet When: Saturday, 10:30 a.m.

Oahu Bowl

Bullet Who: Hawaii vs. Oregon State
Bullet When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Bullet Where: Aloha Stadium
Bullet Gates: Parking lot opens at 7:30 a.m., stadium turnstiles at 9 a.m.
Bullet Tickets: $45 sidelines, $30 end zone.
Bullet Call: 947-4141

Aloha/Oahu Bowl Notebook

Wake players
kept the faith

About the only people who figured Wake Forest had a chance in its ACC finale with then No. 14-ranked Georgia Tech were the coaches and players for the Demon Deacons. And even they might have had their doubts after losing to lowly Duke the week before.

But thanks to a spirited 26-23 win over the Yellow Jackets, the Demon Deacons qualified for the Aloha Bowl and believe they are worthy of the bid.

"I didn't tell our kids anything magical before the game,'' Wake Forest head coach Jim Caldwell said at yesterday morning's first press conference. He brought two players with him, but the rest of the team wasn't due to arrive until late this afternoon.

"I told them we were right on the cusp and that it could go either way,'' Caldwell said. "I told them that I believed in them, but ultimately, it was up to them.

"We just told them we had to control the football, keep it out of the hands of arguably the best quarterback (Heisman finalist Joe Hamilton) in the country and see where that takes us.''

Where it took them was to the Aloha Bowl to play Arizona State this weekend in the first game of the Christmas Day doubleheader, something Caldwell said has the entire community excited.

"This is a reward for a winning season and that's what counts,'' Caldwell said. "I'll tell you this, the enthusiasm in our area is tremendous. We're very excited to be here.''

Smelling the roses?

If you had told Arizona State head coach Bruce Snyder at the beginning of the season that he would beat Washington in Seattle and knock off both Los Angeles teams, he would figure to be in the Rose Bowl.

"We earned it (this postseason appearance,)'' Snyder said. "We did it the hard way. We went to Seattle and won. We beat USC and UCLA, and we beat Arizona, which began the season as the No. 2 or No. 3 team in the nation.

"If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we were going to do those things, I would have said, 'Damn, we're playing in the Bowl Championship Series.' It's easy to look back and say we let some things get away. I think this team went through a lot of struggle and stress to get here.''

Erickson renews rivalry

Oregon State head coach Dennis Erickson and Hawaii counterpart June Jones share one thing in common -- Greg McMackin.

Prior to his one season in Hawaii, McMackin was Erickson's defensive coordinator for four years with the Seattle Seahawks and served in the same capacity when Erickson won a national championship at Miami.

"It's no secret that Greg is one of the best coordinators in our business,'' Erickson said. "He knows what I like to do offensively and I know what he wants to do defensively.

"I'm happy for his new assignment at Texas Tech and am looking forward to going against him this weekend. He is not only a fine coach, but a good man.''

Erickson also holds Jones in high esteem. He said yesterday that he had watched Jones' career from afar and respected the offensive philosophies Jones brought to the NFL. Erickson uses a similar one-back system. The major difference being Oregon State uses a tight end as well as the four-wide formations.

"June has a great offensive mind,'' Erickson said. "What he has done here in Hawaii is truly phenomenal. It's a difficult offense to contain. But we feel like our players have faced something similar in practice, which should help us this weekend.''

Not just another game

Jones may try to approach Saturday's Oahu Bowl as just another game, but for the players, this is an opportunity to prove Hawaii plays good football, too.

"We're all real excited because it's a great opportunity to get some national respect,'' senior middle linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said yesterday. "We're preparing for this game to win, but if we did lose, it wouldn't negate from anything we accomplished as a team. But as seniors we want to finish this thing off right.''

Offensive guard Kaulana Noa echoed those sentiments.

""We're not going to change anything or take this team lightly,'' Noa said. "I feel like it would take something away if we didn't win because one of our goals was to be in a bowl game and to win it. As seniors, we want to go out with a win.''

By Paul Arnett

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