Wildcats Football Gears Up For Wolf Pack, Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Arizona (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) will face Nevada (7-5, 4-4 Mountain West) on Dec. 15 in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, N.M. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. MST on ESPN.
College football's bowl season - the most wonderful time of the year - kicks off with a matchup of two western programs that haven't met on the gridiron in 71 years. Arizona will face Nevada Dec. 15 in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
Is a battle in store in the Southwest? It would appear so with a pair of high-scoring offenses facing a pair of defenses that have struggled to consistently slow down opponents.
It will be a well-hyped showdown between the nation's leading rusher (Arizona's All-American Ka'Deem Carey, 146.4 ypg) and the second-leading rusher (Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson, 141.9 ypg). Quarterbacks Matt Scott (Arizona, 3,723 total offense yards) will duel with Cody Fajardo (Nevada, 3,511 total offense yards) in a battle of dual-threat signal-callers.
Arizona will appear in a bowl game for the fourth time in the last five seasons, while Nevada will make its eighth-consecutive postseason trip.
It will be a contrast in coaching tenures, with Arizona's Rich Rodriguez in his first season at the school squaring off against Chris Ault, who has served three stints as the Nevada head coach over 28 combined years.
Arizona, despite missing a bowl game last year, can finish its season with a victory for the second straight year after bowl losses in 2009 and 2010.
It will be a last chance for seniors on both sides of the ball to cap their careers on high notes.
Last month, Arizona's regular season ended on a heart-breaking note as it surrendered the Territorial Cup (the nation's oldest rivalry trophy) to rival Arizona State University in a 41-34 outcome before a sold-out crowd of 51,901 at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 23.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead on Carey's 1-yard touchdown run in the opening period, but the Sun Devils outscored Arizona 14-3 in the second stanza to claim a 14-9 halftime edge. After ASU kicked a field goal early in the third quarter, the Wildcats stormed back with 18 unanswered points to take a 27-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
Another field goal by Jon Mora brought the Sun Devils to within a touchdown with 11:51 to play in the game. Arizona was poised to extend that lead minutes later with a redzone drive, but Scott fumbled and the Sun Devils promptly recovered and marched in for the tying touchdown on the ensuing drive. The Cats went three plays and out on their next series, and Kyle Dugandzic's punt was blocked.
One play later, the visitors had the lead and never looked back. They intercepted Scott on the next drive and punched in another touchdown to take a 41-27 lead. The Wildcats scored with 1:54 remaining in the game, but were unable to recover the onside kick and with no timeouts saw the clock hit zero with a 41-34 score standing.
The Wildcats outgained the Sun Devils, 522-460, but Arizona State scored 35 points off four UA turnovers and the blocked punt. That proved to be the difference as the Wildcats scored just six points off two Sun Devil turnovers in the game.
Arizona's Carey set the school's single-season rushing record thanks to his 172 rushing yards, but ASU's running back Marion Grice stole the show with 156 yards and three touchdowns to win the Bob Moran Most Outstanding Player Award. It was the fourth-straight game in the series decided by a touchdown or less (15 total points), with the visiting team winning each of those tilts.