Running backs give New Mexico Bowl star quality | College football
Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson are the headliners in Saturday's New Mexico Bowl. All-American Carey leads the nation in yards rushing per game and Jefferson is second.
New Mexico Bowl
Saturday, 10 a.m., ESPN
Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)
Key matchup: Arizona's offense is ranked seventh in the nation and Nevada's is 11th.
Players to watch: Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona All-American running back, leads the nation with 146.4 rushing yards per game. Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson is second in the nation with 141.9 rushing yards per game.
Line: Arizona by 9.
The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Expect a lot of offense when Arizona meets Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday.
The first bowl game of the season features two of the nation's best scoring offenses against two of the nation's worst scoring defenses. Oh, and it also has two of the nation's best running backs.
Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, an All-American, would become the 16th player in NCAA history to have a 2,000-yard season if he can get 243 yards against Nevada. Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson isn't far behind, trailing Carey by 54 yards.
Carey leads the nation with 146.4 yards rushing per game and Jefferson is second in that category at 141.9.
Nevada coach Chris Ault and Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez tried to downplay their running backs Friday.
"Stefphon is a very humble and modest young man," said Ault. "He's the first to tell you it's the offensive line ... it's them who are making him look good."
The matchup between Arizona (7-5) and the Wolf Pack (7-5) also marks the return of Rodriguez to the postseason. Rodriguez took over at Arizona this season after a disappointing stint at Michigan that ended with his firing in 2010.
He found a program in the desert that had plenty of offensive weapons, but not a lot of depth. The combination led to some wild games for the Wildcats, who are among the most prolific offensive teams in the country but also give up yards and points in bunches.
Considered a trailblazer for the current no-huddle trend in college football, Rodriguez created a two-minute-drill-all-the-time offense while at Glenville State back in the 1990s and later took a version of that system to Clemson (as offensive coordinator) and West Virginia. But Rodriguez faced resistance in trying to implement his system while at Michigan.
Asked if he felt vindicated by drawing attention to Arizona and getting his program to a bowl game, Rodriguez said he didn't know if he would use that word.
"I feel I'm glad I'm back," Rodriguez said.
"I was hungry for a challenge and I was hungry to be at a place that wanted to build a program the way we did this."
North Dakota St. advances
FARGO, N.D. — Brock Jensen scored on a 5-yard quarterback draw with 3:05 left to rally North Dakota State to a 23-20 victory over Georgia Southern in the Football Championship Series semifinals before a crowd of 18,484.
The defending champion Bison (13-1) advanced to the title game Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas, against the winner of Saturday's semifinal between Eastern Washington and visiting Sam Houston State.
Jensen's run came on a fourth-and-three play and capped a 59-yard drive that was aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on the Eagles (10-4).
The Bison blocked a 50-yard field-goal attempt by Drew Ruggles with 34 seconds left.
• Mount Union won its record 11th Division III title, and failure was the inspiration for the team from Alliance, Ohio.
Kevin Burke led two second-half touchdown drives and the Purple Raiders ended a three-year losing streak in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl with a 28-10 victory over St. Thomas of Minnesota in Salem, Va.
Those three losses, coach Larry Kehres said, gave him a sense of urgency to win again, and keep his seniors from being his first class in 20 years to leave without a national title.
Kehres has a 332-24-3 record in 27 seasons, including 15-0 this year.
• Junior quarterback Zach Zulli of Shippensburg in Pennsylvania won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the top player in Division II. He set Division II records by accounting for 336 points and 56 touchdowns this season.
• Skip Holtz, 48-year-old son of Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz, was introduced as Louisiana Tech's coach. He replaces Sonny Dykes, who left last week to coach California. South Florida fired Skip Holtz earlier this month.