As announced on Sunday, the 2015 bowl season will kickoff on Saturday, Dec. 19 with a renewed rivalry between Arizona and New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl. Arizona leads the series 43-20-3.
It’s been a long time coming for the Lobos, who last appeared in a bowl game in 2007 when they defeated Colin Kaepernick and the Nevada Wolfpack in 23-0 in the 2007 New Mexico Bowl. This is also the second time the Wildcats and the Lobos have met face to face in a bowl game. The first time was actually in the 1997 Insight.com Bowl at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. It was the first time New Mexico appeared in a bowl game since 1961 and the Lobos lost to Arizona 20-14.
Now it’s New Mexico’s chance to take on the Wildcats in their home turf. The Lobos have hosted their own bowl game only twice and are 1-1 in the game that pitted the Mountain West against the Western Athletic Conference.
“Our entire program is excited,” New Mexico head coach Bob Davie said in a press release. “It is a tremendous challenge for us to play a Pac-12 opponent, but also a great opportunity for our program.”
“We have great memories (of Albuquerque) from a few years ago,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said in a press release, referring to their miracle comeback against Nevada in 2012.
The rivalry between the Lobos and the Wildcats goes back to 1908, when New Mexico and Arizona weren’t even states. They were territories until both becoming American states in 1912.
Arizona won their first meeting 10-6 in Albuquerque, but New Mexico has won the last two meetings. The two teams haven’t played since 2008.
From 1938 through 1990, the rivalry included the Kit Carson Rifle, an old Springfield 1866 model rifle that was rumored to have belonged to frontier scout Kit Carson. The game scores from each game were carved into the stock of the rifle. Legend has it that the rifle was acquired in a trade from Apache leader Geronimo. It was retired in 1997 due to the concerns of the rifle’s symbolism as a weapon against Native Americans.
”We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable with an antique gun being used as a game trophy,” then Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood told the Tucson Citizen in 1997. ”It’s just not in the spirit of intercollegiate athletics.”
A series of sophomore slumps, injuries to two of Arizona’s key players (quarterback Anu Soloman and linebacker Scooby Wright) and having to play 12 straight weeks have derailed the Wildcats this season. A top-10 upset over Utah made them bowl eligible for the fourth straight season and the seventh time in eight seasons.
That being said, they are what their record is, 6-6. The Arizona offense averaged 36 points per game this season and the defense allowed an average of 35.7 points per game.
Arizona will look to run the ball against New Mexico. The Wildcats rushed for 226 yards per game this season, which is good for 18th in the FBS.
New Mexico comes in at 7-5, their first winning season since 2007. The Lobos can also run the ball well. They’re ninth in the FBS with 246.6 rushing yards per game. However, that is usually due to head coach Bob Davie’s offensive style. The Lobos don’t do anything in way of the passing game.
This rivalry also has a personal factor to it. Arizona senior safety Will Parks has led the Wildcats defense with 72 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. Parks and Lobos wide receiver Delane Hart-Johnson are brothers and will likely go after each other in the game.
“What more can you ask for, playing (Parks) in his last college game,” Hart-Johnson tweeted.
If Arizona comes in fresh and healthy, they should renew the rivalry with a win.