Dec 12, 2012 10:46 PM
Albuquerque - 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 ... Is a shootout 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 ... 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) duels with Cody Fajardo (Nevada, 3,511 total offense yards) in a battle of dual-threat signal-callers ... Arizona appears in a bowl game for the fourth time in the last five seasons, while Nevada makes its eighth-consecutive postseason trip ... 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 ... A last chance for seniors on both sides of the ball to cap their careers on high notes ... A preview of an upcoming home-and-home series between the schools in the 2014 (Tucson) and 2015 (Reno) seasons.
Last Time Out: 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 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 Ka'Deem 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 Matt 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.
The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia `86), first year at Arizona (7-5) and 18th as a head coach overall (126-89-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez is 6-2 at Arizona Stadium, 1-3 on the road and 0-0 at neutral sites. Rodriguez was introduced as the 30th head coach of the UA football program on Nov. 22, 2011. He carries Division I records of 7-5 at Arizona, 60-26 at West Virginia (2001-2007) and 15-22 at Michigan (2008-10). He began his head coaching career at Salem (W.Va.) University in 1988 and then coached at Glenville State (W.Va.) from 1990-96. Rodriguez's West Virginia teams were Big East Champions in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 while appearing in two BCS bowls, the 2005 Sugar Bowl with a victory over Georgia for an 11-1 record and a victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl to finish 10-2 shortly after Rodriguez had left for Michigan. His teams have appeared in bowls in eight of 11 seasons an FBS head coach. Nevada - Chris Ault (Nevada, '69 and '73), 28th season at Nevada (233-108-1) and 28th overall as a head coach. Ault has been with the Nevada program for 41 years, beginning with his playing career as a quarterback from 1965-67. Ault's coaching career began as an assistant at UNLV, before at age 29, he became the Wolf Pack head coach from 1976-92. In 1986, he began serving as the school's athletics director, a position he remained in after stepping aside from coaching duties. He returned to coaching for the 1994-95 seasons and continued his administrative role through 2004. That year, he returned to coaching full time without the administrative responsibility. He is one of 14 FBS head coaches that began this season coaching at their alma mater.
Arizona vs. Nevada/Mountain West: Arizona and Nevada have met three previous times on the gridiron, with the series split evenly at 1-1-1. The Wildcats won the last meeting, 26-7, on Oct. 11, 1941, in Tucson. The Wolf Pack won the initial meeting between the programs by a score of 23-14 on Nov. 1, 1924, in Reno. A year later, the schools played to a 0-0 tie on Nov. 26, 1925, in Tucson. ... Arizona is 87-47-5 against current members of the Mountain West Conference ... The Wildcats' last game against a MW foe was a 31-21 victory over No. 17 Brigham Young (now independent) in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 20, 2008. Earlier that season the Wildcats dropped a game, 36-28, to New Mexico in Albuquerque - their last meeting with a current MW school ... Other than the Lobos, Arizona has played just two additional schools in the current MW this millennium, including San Diego State (in 2000 and 2001) and UNLV (2001) ... The Wildcats' last bowl game against a current MW member was a 20-14 victory over New Mexico in the 1997 Insight.com Bowl played on Dec. 27, 1997, in Tucson.
Future Foes: When Arizona was matched up against Oklahoma State in the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl, it marked the first time since 1942 that the programs had met on the field. Interestingly, the two teams had already scheduled a home-and-home series to be played in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The Cowboys won the bowl game (36-10) and the first regular season matchup in Stillwater (37-14) against Mike Stoops-coached Wildcat teams, before Rich Rodriguez guided Arizona to a 59-38 victory in Tucson on Sept. 8 of this year. This time around, the Wildcats are set to face Nevada in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in the first gridiron battle between the schools since 1941. Conveniently, the schools are also set to play a home-and-home series beginning in 2014 in Tucson and wrapping up in Reno in 2015.
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