By Blair Willis / UA Sports
The University of Arizona football team will play Purdue in the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl hosted at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The game is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 27, with a live national television broadcast on the FOX broadcast network beginning at 6:30 p.m. (MST), while being simulcast in Spanish on FOX Deportes.
Arizona is making its fifth bowl appearance in the last six seasons under head coach Rich Rodriguez, while the program earned its eighth postseason trip in 10 seasons overall. The Wildcats have played four of their previous 20 all-time bowl games in California, with three contests in San Diego and one in Anaheim. This is the school’s first bowl game in the Bay Area.
The Wildcats earned selection to the Foster Farms Bowl with a 7-5 overall record, including a 5-4 mark in the Pac-12 Conference play. League champion USC (Cotton Bowl) and Washington (Fiesta Bowl) were picked for New Year’s Six bowl games, while Pac-12 runner-up Stanford (Alamo Bowl) and Washington State (Holiday Bowl) were chosen first in the conference-affiliated bowl slots. The Foster Farms Bowl then chose Arizona with the next selection.
This year marks the 16th annual Foster Farms Bowl and the game is hosted at Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers, who oversee management and operation of the annual game and associated events. The teams competing in the Foster Farms Bowl will support the community’s ongoing fight against hunger as players and coaches will participate in a day of service during their visit to the Bay Area. In addition, Foster Farms will play a lead role in the event’s community engagement platform and will again donate a meal to local hunger relief organizations for every ticket sold to the game.
Picked to finish last in the Pac-12, the Wildcats produced a resurgent season with an explosive offense and a young, yet opportunistic defense. Arizona led the Pac-12 in numerous offensive categories and ranked No. 3 nationally in rushing offense (324.4 yards per game), No.6 in scoring offense (41.8 points per game) and No. 12 in total offense (494.5 yards per game). The team totaled 30 offensive plays of at least 40 yards, which is the second-best tally in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Quarterback Khalil Tate emerged as one of college football’s most electrifying players in October, leading the Wildcats to a 5-3 record over the last eight games. Included was a perfect 4-0 mark in October, something achieved only once previously in program history. He was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week four straight weeks and rushed for more yards in the month than any FBS player in the last year 10 years.
Tate, a finalist for the Manning Award, leads the team with 12 rushing touchdowns and ranks sixth among all FBS players averaging 135.3 rushing yards per game, while his total of 1,353 yards on the ground is No. 15 nationally. He became the first quarterback in Pac-12 history to top the 1,000-yard rushing mark for a season and his QBR of 94.1 leads all FBS quarterbacks this season. He has passed for 1,289 yards and nine touchdowns on the season, giving him 21 total touchdowns – all of which have come over the last eight games.
Defensively, Arizona was led by key contributions from freshmen at all levels of the defense. True freshmen linebackers Tony Fields II (91 tackles) and Colin Schooler (88 tackles) led all Pac-12 freshmen in tackles. Schooler was especially productive in nine conference games, racking up all of his 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in league play. Collectively, the defense forced 24 turnovers, led by 18 interceptions which ties for fifth-most nationally. Redshirt freshman Lorenzo Burns’ five interceptions tie for most in the nation by a freshman.
The meeting with the Boilermakers will be the first for these schools since 2005, when the Wildcats’ upset bid of No. 12 Purdue fell short, 31-24, in Tucson. The Boilermakers hold a 2-0 advantage in the all-time series and will be Arizona’s first matchup with a Big 10 opponent (at the time of the game) in a bowl game.
Arizona Athletics has created a one-stop shop for fans with information on tickets, travel packages and bowl events. To purchase tickets and learn more about joining the Wildcats at the Foster Farms Bowl, visit www.arizonawildcats.com/bowlgame.
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Copyright 2017 Southern Arizona News-Examiner