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Shreveport Times: Rich Rodriguez rebounding with ‘Cats

Rich Rodriguez celebrates after this season's win over No. 5 Oregon. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Rodriguez celebrates after this season’s win over No. 5 Oregon. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona plays Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La., on Tuesday, and here is a story on the Cats from The Shreveport Times, one of our Gannett partners …

By Matt Vines
The Shreveport Times

Arizona might be playing Boston College for the first time in program history, but one thing is for sure when the Wildcats (7-5) and Eagles (7-5) hook up Tuesday in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Independence Stadium.

Coach Rich Rodriguez knows how to beat Boston College.

Rodriguez, a former West Virginia player and head coach, is 6-2 against Boston College in his playing and head coaching career.

The Mountaineers were 4-0 against Boston College with Rodriguez as a player from 1981-84 and 2-2 from 2001-04 when West Virginia and Boston College were Big East foes.

“The biggest accomplishment to me was against (quarterback Doug Flutie) because they were one of the best teams in the country,” Rodriguez said. “It was my senior year, and I played the most that year as a free safety. I was probably lined up 20 yards deep so Doug wouldn’t throw it over my head.

“He might have hit a few square ins in front of me but he never beat me deep.”

Rodriguez said he didn’t have much to contribute to those four wins except his senior season.

But he does have a track record of success as a coach.

He guided Glenville State from NAIA status to NCAA Division II respectability before taking in part of Tulane’s perfect season in 1998 as an offensive coordinator.

Rodriguez made his way back to West Virginia as a head coach in 2001, taking the Mountaineers to two BCS bowl wins and four Big East Conference championships.

His three years at Michigan didn’t pan out and he was fired, but now he’s continued Arizona’s status as a bowl program in his two seasons and hopes to build for the future.

“(The transition) has been really good,” Rodriguez said. “There are a lot of things we still gotta get done.

“Foundation is cliche, but it’s been put down last year and this year about as well as we can hope.

“We’ve got a $75 million football facility, recruiting has gone well and everybody in town and the school are excited about the program. We’re not where we wanna be but we’re certainly on our way.”

Junior defensive back Tra’Mayne Bondurant said the transition from Mike Stoops to Rodriguez has been as smooth as possible.

“The transition is something we had to go through, and it’s been a good transition,” Bondurant said. “Coach Rodriguez came in here and made us believe that we are good enough and are a good team with good players.

“He put a mind-set in this program to win and become better yet take nothing for granted.”

How good can Arizona be with most everyone returning next season, which will be the third in Rodriguez’s scheme?

“I believe in my heart we can win national championships and Rose Bowls. We have a great coaching staff and a great group of players that believe.

“Before, we wasn’t believing. Now we’re believing. It’s important we believe because it’s gotten us this far now … and we’re going to show people next year for sure.”

Running back Ka’Deem Carey has shined in Rodriguez’s spread attack, but he credits his head coach’s demeanor off the field as well.

“We see each other and say our hi’s and communicate,” Carey said. “He’s a great guy. Knowing coach Rich Rod – he’s so smart at football defense and offense.

“Off the field, he carries that over and shares that knowledge with you.”

Bowl season is one of Rodriguez’s favorite times, and he said he watches as many bowl games as possible.

And he keeps an eyes on programs he’s been associated with in the past.

“Yeah I did get a chance to watch a little bit of that,” said a smiling Rodriguez about Michigan’s 31-14 loss to Kansas State. “No comment on that game.”

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