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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 10 Arizona Wildcats face upset-minded No. 20 Boise State in Fiesta Bowl

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Rebecca Noble

Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez speaks to media during Arizona’s Fiesta Bowl press conference at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Tucson, Ariz. on Sunday. Rodriguez and the Wildcats will match up with Boise State on Dec. 31 in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl.

Arizona football returns to its first major bowl game in almost 21 years and faces a Fiesta Bowl veteran in Boise State. On Wednesday at 2 p.m. MST on ESPN, the No. 10/12 Wildcats (10-3) face the No. 20/21 Boise State Broncos in the VIZIO Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.

The Fiesta Bowl is part of the “New Year’s Six” bowl lineup, where the top six bowl games are played on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. Arizona’s last trip to a major bowl was the 1994 Fiesta Bowl, where the Wildcats beat No. 10 Miami 29-0.

“Here it is, the first year of the ‘New Year’s Six’ and we’re in one of them,” UA head coach Rich Rodriguez said at a press conference on Friday. “I’m really proud of our players, especially our seniors, because you want to be on the biggest stage. And other than the four teams in the playoff, this is the next biggest stage. So it’s pretty neat.”

The Broncos (11-2) are playing in their third Fiesta Bowl. Boise State shocked No. 7 Oklahoma 43-42 in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and took down No. 3 TCU 17-10 in the 2010 edition.

After losing 28-14 at Air Force, the Broncos won eight games in a row. Boise State won the Mountain West championship and, as the highest-ranked team from a “Group of Five” conference, won its automatic berth in the New Year’s Six.

The Broncos are 13th in the country in total offense and 39th in total defense. Arizona is 103rd in total defense and 25th in total offense.

BSU junior running back Jay Ajayi was named to seven All-American teams this season. He is second in the nation with 2,225 yards from scrimmage and tied for first with 29 touchdowns.

The Fiesta Bowl will be Ajayi’s last game as he is leaving for the NFL Draft.

“He’s such a physical guy,” UA defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said to the Arizona Daily Star about Ajayi. “He has the speed and quickness. He has great vision. He’s an NFL guy.”

After limping through the end of the regular season, where they played seven weeks in a row and dealt with a series of injuries, the Wildcats had zero players that were probable, questionable or doubtful on the injury report.

Starting quarterback Anu Solomon missed significant time at the end of the regular season but is healed now.

“It was difficult because I [couldn’t] do my part, making the defense play true,” Solomon said to Fox Sports Arizona. “I [couldn’t] be that dual threat kind of guy. I had to tough it out.”

Rodriguez is 2-0 in bowl games for Arizona, with a 49-48 win over Nevada in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl and 42-19 rout of Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl last season. Rodriguez is also 11-0 against teams from outside the Pac-12 Conference as Arizona head coach.

Rookie head coach Bryan Harsin leads the Broncos after long time coach Chris Peterson left to coach Washington. Coincidentally, the Huskies are in the Valley of the Sun to play in the Cactus Bowl at ASU on January 2.

Familiar faces

The Wildcats and Broncos haven’t ever played but there is already some familiarity.

Arizona nose guard Jeff Worthy started his college career at Boise State before being kicked off the team. The junior played a season at Santa Ana College in 2013 before joining the Wildcats.

“I just wasn’t doing the right things,” Worthy said to the Idaho Statesman. “Just being an idiot, really. I was young, on my own, away from mom. … Even my teammates noticed that at Boise. A lot of them didn’t really like me. I was always in fights.”

Worthy has 12 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, this season.

Additionally, UA safety Jared Tevis will face his brother’s alma mater. Aaron Tevis played linebacker at Boise State from 2007 to 2011 and was second on the team with seven tackles in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.

“I’m rooting for both [teams],” Aaron Tevis said to the Idaho Statesman. “I want a great game that comes down to the wire. But I want Jared to win.”

True blue

Boise State pretty much started from the bottom and now they’re here.

In 1933, BSU was established as Boise Junior College. After winning the 1958 NJCAA national championship, in 1968, it became Boise State College and competed in the NAIA.

In 1970, BSC joined the NCAA, in Division II. After winning four Big Sky Conference championships in 1978, Boise moved up to Division I, into the FCS.

The Broncos won the FCS national championship in 1980 and finished runners-up in 1994. In 1996 they moved up to the FBS and into the Big West. In 2001 they joined the WAC and,10 years later, the Mountain West.

In 1986, Boise State installed blue turf for the first time. BSU has since become famous for its all blue look.

When the Broncos joined the Mountain West, the conference banned their all blue uniforms but changed their tune after the Broncos nearly left for the Big East.

The Broncos will wear white jerseys for the Fiesta Bowl.

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