SHREVEPORT, La. — When the Arizona defense began preparing for Boston College and its All-America running back Andre Williams, coordinator Jeff Casteel had a simple message for his troops.
“He said, ‘You’re always going to remember this game,’ ” senior linebacker Jake Fischer said. “When (Williams) is playing on Sundays, we wanted to be able to say we slowed him down.”
Casteel’s group did more than that.
The Wildcats defense held Williams to 75 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. The Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman finalist averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and never had a rush longer than seven yards.
“Our guys took it as a challenge because he is such a great player,” Casteel said. “They did a great job tackling him. We won the game up front. Our ‘down’ kids did a great job.
“Andre was never able to get going and get into a rhythm and you have to give our kids some credit for that.”
To stop Williams, the Wildcats dipped into their depth. Casteel used 19 different players in the first quarter alone. The UA wanted to be as fresh and show Boston College as many different looks as possible.
Up front, Sione Tuihalamaka, Tevin Hood and Reggie Gilbert started, but Dan Pettinato, Dwight Melvin, Kirifi Taula and Derrick Turituri all saw time on the line.
In the secondary, reserves Will Parks, Tellas Jones and Anthony Lopez all played more than normal and linebacker Keoni Bush-Loo also saw extended snaps and even picked up a sack.
“Our defensive staff did a really nice job,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “It was hectic on the sideline making sure we were heading out on the right time, but I thought the biggest key for us was making sure to tackle (Williams) before he got going through the second level. We wanted to tackle him early and be really physical. I thought we did that.
“We got him on the ground quickly and we didn’t let him get any big runs.”
Tuihalamaka, Hood and Gilbert’s average weight is 277.3 pounds. Boston College’s offensive line’s average weight is 302.4. That didn’t seem to bother the smaller, quicker Arizona front on Tuesday, though.
“I’m proud of the kids and really happy for them,” Casteel said. “It’s a good thing for us to build on and hopefully we can take that into the winter and spring and keep getting better.”
Freshman Nate Phillips set a couple of heady records in Tuesday’s win.
The Chandler Basha High grad recorded nine catches for 193 yards, setting a new AdvoCare V100/Independence Bowl record for receiving yards in a game.
South Carolina’s Sidney Rice, now with the Seattle Seahawks, had 191 in 2005.
Phillips’ 193 yards were also the most ever by a UA freshman in any game.
“It’s an honor, but there’s also a lot of room to grow,” Phillips said. “But it’s going to be something neat to tell my kids about in the future.”
Phillips didn’t waste any time getting hot. The freshman made catches of 57 and 22 yards on Arizona’s second drive of the game and had 112 yards by halftime.
“It was just one of those days where everything was working for me,” Phillips said. “I’m glad it happened on a day like this.”
The freshman did have one miscue. He fumbled a punt and wasn’t able to recover it. UA’s Parks rescued Phillips, though, three plays later when he intercepted BC’s Chase Rettig and returned it 69 yards for a TD.
“Other than that one mistake, it was a perfect day,” Phillips said.
Carey awaits feedback
Running back Ka’Deem Carey said he still hasn’t received the paperwork back he submitted to the NFL draft advisory board a couple of weeks ago.
The board’s feedback will certainly have an impact on Carey’s decision. For now, he isn’t sure when he will make up his mind on whether to go to the NFL or return for his senior season.
“I can’t give you a timetable,” Carey said.
He finished the season with 1,885 rushing yards, which set a Pac-12 record for most yards by a junior. The Canyon del Oro High grad already held the sophomore mark, rushing for 1,929 yards last year in one more game.
For his career, Carey has 4,239 yards, the seventh most in Pac-12 history.
- Parks’ interception return for a touchdown was the UA’s fifth this season, one shy of the school record set in 1996. The sophomore’s 69-yard return was the longest resulting in a score since
- Robert Golden
- ’s 91-yard return for a score against Washington in 2011.
- Arizona gained 529 yards of total offense, its second-best mark of the season. The UA gained 670 yards at Colorado on Oct. 26. It’s also the second-most the UA has ever produced in a bowl game, behind last year’s 578 yards against Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl.
- Fischer matched his career high with 14 tackles. He also picked up his first sack of the season and the first since 2010. He played in every game in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.