In a game that was billed as a duel between the nation’s top running backs, it was a kid with a famous name that caught the fans’ attention in the University of Arizona‘s runaway victory in yesterday’s AdvoCare V100 Bowl.
With just 30 seconds left to play in the first half, redshirt freshman receiver Trey Griffey scored on a 27-yard pass play to give the Wildcats a two-touchdown cushion and the momentum to begin pulling away from Boston College, eventually recording a dominant 42-19 win to cap off their second straight 8-5 season under head coach Rich Rodriguez – and a bowl win both years.
Griffey’s TD was the first of his career and his famous father from another sport was set up with long-lens camera on the fringe of the UA end zone to record the catch. When a sideline reporter asked him about his son’s play, he replied: “He’s doing what he loves to do, and I’m just trying to capture the moment.”
Ken Griffey Jr. had plenty to capture during the game, as Trey pulled in his second reception for a touchdown as the fourth quarter got underway. The former Major League Baseball all-star played 22 years in the majors, following in the footsteps of his father, Ken Griffey Sr., also well-known to baseball fans. Ken Griffey Jr. spent most of his career in Seattle, where he is a member of the Mariners’ Hall of Fame, but now will likely be spending a lot of time in Arizona since his daughter, Taryn, has committed to play basketball for the Wildcats after she graduates this year from high school (see phxfan 8-30-13).
Yesterday’s game in Shreveport, La., had a sloppy start but Arizona was able to get on track before halftime to take a comfortable 21-6 lead into the half. Boston College didn’t get far into the opening drive before junior safety Jared Tevis picked off his first interception of the season to give the ball to the Cats. But 52 seconds later, a fumble by Ka’Deem Carey returned the pigskin to the Eagles.
Carey finished the game with 169 yards, living up to the pre-game hype that pitted him against BC’s Heisman finalist, Andre Williams, who led the nation in rushing this year with 2,012 yards and won the Doak Walker award as the nation’s top back. Carey was last year’s rushing leader (1,929 yards) and had run for 1,716 this season – despite sitting out the first game.
But the Wildcat defense managed to keep Williams in check, taking him down before he could get into the open field and limiting big plays. Williams finished the game with 75 yards, averaging just 2.9 yards a carry.
Meanwhile, Carey and the Wildcats were setting records. The junior from Canyon del Oro High School posted his 16th straight game with 100 or more yards and became the school’s all-time leader for all-purpose yardage.
Nate Phillips, another local standout, broke the school record for most receiving yards in a bowl game and also set a new mark for receiving yards by a freshman. The 5’7″ freshman from Basha High School in Chandler pulled in nine passes for 193 yards, including a 57-yard reception in the first quarter.
And the six touchdowns scored by the Cats tied the bowl record, as the Cats became the seventh team to put six on the scoreboard.
Arizona totaled 529 yards of offense as senior quarterback B.J. Denker wrapped up his college career by completing 17 of 24 pass attempts for 275 yards and earning the game’s Offensive MVP award.
The Wildcat defense didn’t allow a touchdown until Williams plunged into the end zone from four yards out three minutes into the fourth quarter, and didn’t allow another until the final 40 seconds of the game. They held the Eagles to just 145 yards rushing and 206 through the air, and intercepted two Chase Rettig passes.
Sophomore safety William Parks, who picked a Rettig pass with four minutes left to play in the first half and carried it 69 yards for the score, was named the Defensive MVP of the game. Jake Fischer contributed 14 tackles, which tied a career high, and Jourdon Grandon had 12 tackles. Fischer is a senior linebacker from Ironwood Ridge High School in Tucson who played in every game during his four years at Arizona, a total of 52 straight games.
But the biggest impact from this year’s graduation will be at the quarterback position since Denker will be moving on. Rodriguez will be looking at finding a third starting quarterback in as many years at the helm of the program, but he’s got a few candidates waiting in the wings – and a top-25 recruiting class coming in.
Yesterday was set aside to savor another bowl victory. But today begins the search for a new signal caller – and a way to get over that 8-5 hump.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)