Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 11/18/11
TUCSON Senior Alex Zendejas might as well be the poster child for the Arizona-Arizona State rivalry. Family on each side. He's from the Tempe-area. He's experienced the high of highs and, well, the low of lows in the love-to-hate'em rivalry. And he's OK with that. You take the good with the bad, he said, and you move on. He's done exactly that, finding tranquility in a rivalry where peace is in short order. And, everyone involved is fine with that, too. "I'm from Texas and I came in and you always hear of the ASU-U of A rivalry," senior receiver David Douglas said. "You hear about it, but until you step on the field and you hear their fans yelling at you, just the type of environment it's crazy and it's fun to play in. Those are the kind of games as a player you want to play in." Expect the same Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium. Full of hype and hope. Magic and misery. Full of everything. It wouldn't be an UA-ASU game if it didn't have any of that. It's a game where anything can happen and usually does. Take Zendejas, whose uncles - Luis and Alan (ASU) and Max (UA) - have played roles as kickers for each team through the years. Most recently, however, Alex has been a hero in one game and the anti-UA hero in another. Two years ago, he hit a 32-yarder at the end of the game to give UA a 20-17 win in Sun Devil Stadium. "It was the greatest moment in my sports career," he said this week. A year later, he suffered one of, if not the worst, as two of his late-game extra points were blocked, giving ASU an improbable 30-29 double-overtime win. He's reminded of it nearly every day by someone who either recognizes him or his name. "Those people that were congratulating me two years ago," he said. "are probably the most mad at me." He said he's learned a lot about people because of it. He didn't change his major from economy to psychology to understand it. "Sometimes you just have to laugh it off," he said. Others are trying. Senior Paul Vassallo said it was "by far" the toughest defeat he's had. "You can't write something like that," he said. "To have it actually unfold in front of you was kind of unbelievable." A perfect example, Zendejas said, of how the game can change in an instant and how every game is different. "(The winning kick) was a great feeling," he said. "And good for all the reasons it was bad last year." Stunning, in fact. And not just how Arizona lost, but who it was to the dreaded Sun Devils. "I think (I was) shocked especially with the blocked kick," Vassallo said. "I don't think anyone saw that coming; just shocked to say the least." Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, already on record as saying he doesn't like Arizona State, said Arizona had every opportunity last year to put the game away, but gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns before having to rally with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Douglas with 27 seconds left. The first blocked extra point came soon after. "We put ourselves in a situation to put them away and we didn't," Foles said. And the worst happened. It hurt so much, Arizona players starting wearing wristbands that said, "All In" and "No Looking Back." The ASU game, in part, was the reason for the latter. UA players wanted to have 2011 be a clean-slate season. It hasn't worked out that way. Not even close. Its head coach, Mike Stoops, was fired midway through and outside of a win against UCLA not much positive has happened. Then again, one goal is still in reach. "When the season first started," said senior Robert Golden, "we had a goal to be the best team in Arizona. We beat NAU (Northern Arizona, 41-10) and now we have to beat Arizona State to accomplish that goal. It'll mean a lot for us." Another would be to keep ASU from having a chance to win the Pac-12 Conference South. ASU is 4-3 and needs the win to have a chance. ASU is tied with UCLA. USC is 5-2 but is not bowl-eligible because of NCAA rules violations. "We want to take away any opportunity they have for the South," Vassallo said. Unless something happens to starting kicker John Bonano, Zendejas likely will watch from the sidelines. Bonano took over for Zendejas midway through the season after another kicker Jaime Salazar failed to be consistent. But Zendejas has had his shot in the storied game. He's won and he's lost. Again, he's OK with it. "I've had my good times and I've had my bad times," he said. "But I work every day. I have no regrets. It is what it is. I can't take anything back. I'm proud of what I've done."
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