Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said he felt that win or lose, his team already had started to establish its identity: Fast, athletic and, well, good.
All were there Tuesday afternoon in Shreveport, La., in one of the Wildcats’ best games of the season in beating Boston College., 42-19, to win the AdvoCare V100 Bowl game.
It was all Cats, all the time as Arizona "got into the right rhythm and played fast," Rodriguez said.
That’s been the blueprint for two years, but Rodriguez said his team practiced "faster" in the last couple of weeks than they did all year.
"Winning and winning like we did gives us a lot of confidence going into the off-season," Rodriguez said in his postgame radio show. "I hope it helps in recruiting, but I don’t know how much it helps. It’s just a positive vibe surrounding the UA program."
Winning a second consecutive bowl game doesn’t hurt. Arizona finished the season 8-5 for the second year in a row under Rodriguez.
Arizona made it look easy against Boston College. Its 21-6 halfime lead would grow to 42-6 before the Wildcats gave up two late scored.
"Everything went our way; we went out there and balled," said Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, who had 169 yards on 27 carries. "Our seniors made plays. We just had fun out there."
Fun came in the form of 529 yards in total offense, 254 coming on the ground. BC had no answer for quarterback B.J. Denker, Carey, Nate Phillips or Trey Griffey, who pulled down his first of two touchdowns on the season.
"It’s about time you (the nation) get to see it," said Carey on ESPN right after the game. "But it’s the normal. It’s what we do. We go fast, and we put the points on the board. And defense gets stops."
Arizona limited BC to 351 yards in total offense and was impressive in defending Andre Williams, who beat out Carey for this year’s Doak Walker Award for the nation’s top running back. Williams had just 75 yards and one insignificant touchdown late in the game. His longest gain was for seven yards, and that from a guy who rushed for more than 2,000 on the season.
"Our defense played unbelievable," Carey said. "They stopped them and held them good."
It’s how the seniors wanted to go out, particularly after losing badly in the season finale to Arizona State.
"When the seniors got together, we knew we’d be doing some big things," said UA linebacker Jake Fischer, who tied a career high with 14 tackles. "There were a couple of hiccups down the road, but we wanted to make our mark and make sure program is going in the right direction. All the young guys played as hard as they could for us. I’m really proud how everyone played today."
It was clearly a team effort, although Denker came away with the game’s offensive player of the game after passing for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Defensive back William Parks was named the defensive player of the game, setting the tone for UA midway through the second quarter with a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown to give Arizona a 14-6 lead.
"Without question it was a big spark," Rodriguez said.
He said Griffey’s first touchdown catch with 30 seconds left in the half "was a big deal because it gave us a bigger cushion and allowed us to establish that lead."
Freshman wide receiver Nate Phillips had nine catches for a bowl-game record 193 yards, which is also the school record for most receiving yards in a bowl game.
And then there was Carey, who had said going into the game he had something to prove in going against Williams after finishing second to him for the NCAA rushing title. His 169 yards gave him 16 consecutive games of more than 100 yards. He added two touchdowns in what many think might have been his final game as a Wildcat. He said after the game he has yet to make up his mind if he’ll return for a senior year.
"I haven’t made the decision," he said on ESPN after the game.
Carey’s two touchdowns moved him to 52 for his career and 19 for the season.
The win marks the first time since 1997 and 1998 that the Wildcats have won back-to-back bowl games, giving Rodriguez an impressive start to his Arizona coaching career.
"This win means so much for us," Carey said. "Coming in and getting our second bowl game in a row that says a lot about this program. That means we’re coming up and improving each year. We’re getting better."