Winning six games in a season isn’t the goal for any college football team. Rich Rodriguez’s Wildcats aren’t striving to be back-to-back New Mexico Bowl champions.
They obviously have higher goals than that.
But there is something to be said about gaining bowl eligibility during the first week in November, and that’s what the UA can accomplish with a win at Cal on Saturday.
Win in Berkeley and the Wildcats will move to 6-2 and lock down a bowl berth with four games to play.
It would mark just the second time in program history that the Wildcats went to a bowl game in five out of six seasons. The UA went to bowl games in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993 and 1994 under Dick Tomey.
“I mentioned it very briefly, but we don’t talk about it a whole lot before the season,” said Rodriguez on Monday during his weekly news conference. “You want to be in a bowl every year.”
The second-year coach did bring it to his team’s attention Sunday when they began preparing for Cal.
“The only thing I mentioned to the team is if we win one more game, it looks like the seniors get to play one more game in their college career,” Rodriguez said. “And to me, that’s a big deal. If you’re a senior, you want to end (the season) in a bowl game somewhere and the more you win the more is at stake, particularly when you get into the situation when you’re bowl eligible.”
If the Wildcats return to Tucson with a win, they’ll be 6-2 with their final four games all in their home state. The more wins the final four weeks, the bigger the bowl for the UA.
For the majority of Rodriguez’s seniors, their football career expiration date is sooner rather than later. If they’re able to delay that date by a few weeks or a month, they certainly wouldn’t turn it down.
“We only get so many games in college for a guy like me,” senior wide receiver Terrence Miller said. “To have one more would be great. It’s definitely a goal, but at the same time we’re just thinking about the next play.”
There’s also a strong belief among the seniors that bowl eligibility isn’t something worth celebrating. Rather it’s an expectation that comes with playing at a program like Arizona.
“We expect to be bowl eligible,” senior quarterback B.J. Denker said. “We’re focusing on Cal right now and winning another Pac-12 game. If we take care of business on the field, then the bowl games, the Rose Bowl, the Pac-12 championship will eventually take care of itself.”
More on Team Ka’Deem
Rodriguez said Monday that he’s OK with the UA’s postseason award campaign for junior running back Ka’Deem Carey.
The UA launched a website for Carey on Sunday and has been promoting its junior running back heavily the last few days through a “Team Ka’Deem” campaign.
“I don’t mind guys getting individual recognition as long as it doesn’t change who they are or how they approach things,” Rodriguez said. “Knowing Ka’Deem as we know him, it’s not going to change his work ethic, it’s not going to change how he approaches it, it’s not going to change how we coach him and I really don’t think it’s going to change his outside world.
“He’s responded well in the last six or seven months since there were some things in the spring. He’s responded as well as we could have possibly hoped and I’ve been really proud of the way he’s focused.”
Carey is 550 yards shy of becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher and has 16 100-yard games to his credit.
This season, Carey has 920 yards and 10 rushing scores. His 153.3 rushing yards per game lead the nation.
“I think he’s deserved it,” Rodriguez said of the campaign for Carey.
He then added a final line, but couldn’t say it with a straight face: “I hope he plays another year for the Arizona Wildcats.”
Carey, of course, is eligible to declare for the NFL draft following the season.
Rodriguez is hopeful junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant will return to the lineup this week after missing the Colorado game with a concussion.
Bondurant ran for the first time since his concussion on Sunday night and was re-evaluated on Monday by trainers. Rodriguez was hopeful he’d practice today.
Linebacker Jake Fischer, who injured his ankle in the second half against Colorado, had tests done on Monday.
Rodriguez wasn’t sure of the results, but didn’t seem too worried.
“We don’t think it’s anything major,” Rodriguez said. “Jake is such a tough guy, if he can go at all, he should be good for Saturday.”
Rodriguez was less sure about safety Jared Tevis, who has missed the past two games with a knee injury. The coach said he’d know more about his status today.
Arizona’s home game Nov. 9 against UCLA will kick off at 8 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPN.
It marks the latest start of the season so far for the UA. Arizona has yet to have a day game at home this season. The team’s games against NAU and Utah both kicked off at 7 p.m., and the UTSA contest began at 7:30.