The Arizona Wildcats depart at 1 p.m. today for Albuquerque, where they'll try to accomplish something they haven't done in four years: win a bowl game.
Heck, showing up and playing a competitive game would be an improvement.
The Wildcats have been outscored 69-10 in their last two bowl games. Nebraska thumped the UA 33-0 in the 2009 Holiday Bowl; a year later, Oklahoma State pounded the Wildcats 36-10. Arizona's last postseason victory came in 2008, when it defeated BYU 31-21 in the Las Vegas Bowl. The team did not make a bowl in 2011.
Senior place-kicker John Bonano said the team is "definitely" emphasizing a win this week. The Wildcats (7-5) will face Nevada (7-5) Saturday at 11 a.m., the first in a four-week streak of postseason games.
"After losing two games, we know we need to put more focus and attention to detail into this game," he said. "We know what it's like to be on the losing end and all that."
A win would help Arizona:
• Snap the streak. Saturday's game represents a chance to chase away some old but lingering demons. The UA never led in the Holiday or Alamo bowls. Worse, they trailed for 114 minutes 10 seconds of the games' combined 120 minutes. It took Nebraska just 1:45 to take the lead in 2009; Oklahoma State took a bit longer, at 4:05, when the teams met in 2010.
Only eight players know what it's like to win a bowl game. Quarterback Matt Scott, offensive linemen Kyle Quinn, Trace Biskin and Jowyn Ward, defensive linemen Chris Merrill and Dominique Austin, running back Greg Nwoko and safety Mark Watley were all true freshmen when the UA won the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl. Of those eight, only Austin played in the game.
"It's a lot better when you win," Scott said. "We won my freshman year, and we had the time of our lives. We went to two other games, and it was just, kind of, whatever."
A win Saturday would put the UA's bad bowl performances in the past - and, possibly, make the program more attractive to future games. Arizona played above it's bowl "slot" the last two games and was quickly exposed.
"We were talking about this as a team: We haven't played out very well in our last two bowl games," Quinn said. "We want to go out there and represent Arizona well."
• Send off the seniors. Coach Rich Rodriguez said this week that there's "probably too much, good or bad" put into the importance of bowl victories.
"But for the coaches and the seniors, it's a whole lot better memory if you win it," he said.
Saturday's game will serve as a tribute to Arizona's 20-plus seniors, many of whom endured back-to-back bowl losses and a coaching change before posting a surprising season this fall. Scott, Quinn, Biskin and wide receiver Dan Buckner all figure to start on a veteran-heavy offense. Defensive tackle Willie Mobley has endured injuries since transferring from Ohio State, and Austin is doubtful to play because of a nagging foot injury.
"RichRod has done a good job of emphasizing the importance of winning this for our seniors," Bonano said.
Saturday, it should be motivation enough.
• Spring to next season. A victory over the offensive-minded Wolf Pack would give Arizona eight wins in 2012 - a 200 percent increase over last year's victory total of four, even though this year's team has less experience and fewer stars than the 2011 season.
A win Saturday also could raise expectations for 2013. Arizona must replace Scott, Quinn, Bonano and other seniors but will have an easier schedule and - in theory - a better defense.
That's one reason winning would be "huge," Bonano said.
"It's great momentum heading into the offseason," he said. "It fires everybody up to keep working hard, so we can carry that into next season."
Carey named to AP All-America first team, is UA's first consensus All-American since 2007
Ka'Deem Carey was named to The Associated Press All-America team Tuesday, making him the first UA consensus All-American since 2007.
Carey and Wisconsin's Montee Ball were named the AP team's two top running backs. Carey was named to The Sporting News and the Walter Camp All-America teams last week.
The Canyon del Oro High School product could still be included in the The Football Writers Association of America squad, to be released Friday.
The last Wildcat to receive consensus honor was cornerback Antoine Cason in 2007.
Just a sophomore, Carey leads the nation with 146.42 rushing yards per game. He'll face Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson, the nation's No. 2 performer in yards per game, in Saturday's New Mexico Bowl.