Bowl season can bring a college football team anywhere. From Yankee Stadium, to the Bahamas, the bowl game locations have become more creative, and the distances can be significant…unless it happens to be the Arizona Wildcats.
For the ‘Cats, it was as simple as a quick trip up the Interstate-10, and they made it from the friendly confines of Tucson, to their Scottsdale hotel as they prepare for their Fiesta Bowl battle against Boise State. University of Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez joked this was the first bowl game he could ever drive to.
The Wildcats are coming off of one of their most impressive seasons in program history. They notches 10 wins in a gauntlet of a Pac-12 schedule, and they regained the Territorial Cup from in-state rival Arizona State. But the last time the ‘Cats took the field, though, it did not go as planned.
The Oregon Ducks, whom Arizona defeated in the regular season, picked apart the Wildcats. Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota was surgical with his accuracy, scoring five total touchdowns.
The sour taste in the Wildcat’s mouth has not been remedied for Rodriguez.
“I had been probably miserable to be around at home and in the office,” Rodriguez said. ”Once we got back to work on campus, practicing again, I think we got back into our routine. I was pleased at the work our guys put in.”
While the Wildcats are using the Pac-12 Championship as fuel for the Fiesta Bowl, the time off has given Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon time to heal his injured leg that he had been playing on the final few weeks of the season.
“Having a week off before we resumed practice really helped and he should be 100%,” Rodriguez said.
University of Phoenix Stadium is not just a familiar place to Arizona, but Boise State as well. The Broncos were Fiesta Bowl participants twice in recent years, including in 2007, when they made a huge statement for non-power conferences. They defeated Oklahoma 43-42 when Boise State running back Ian Johnson completed a two-point conversion on a statue of liberty play. After the game, Johnson proposed to his girlfriend, who happened to be a Boise State cheerleader (Disney can’t write this any better).
Another year, another solid Boise State team, says Rodriguez.
“(They’re) just what you think of a Boise team, I think they’re probably underrated in their athleticism when watching them,” Rodriguez said. “You don’t play in the Fiesta Bowl without having really good players and guys that play really hard who are well-coached and well-schemed up. I think our guys expect that.”
Arizona and Boise State will duke it out for the Fiesta Bowl crown on December 31st.