“Well, we're excited to be in this type of bowl game,” Rodriguez said. “We thought after we won the South championship we were going to be in a very good bowl no matter what happened.
“We didn't play well in the championship game. Here we are in a great bowl against a great opponent that has not only been there before and done it, but is having a great season. Dominated the conference, has a lot of great players, outstanding coaching staff.
“They've been there, done it before. For us, we're kind of new to this deal, but it's also a great opportunity for us to be on the big stage again and try to play better.”
As far as Rodriguez is concerned, he believes that Arizona has gotten to this point due in large part to its love of the game.
“Well, it's an interesting group,” Rodriguez said. “We thought back in August we were probably going to be in a lot of close games, at least that was the hope, probably have a lot of games go down to the last couple minutes, and they have.
“We've been in a bunch of close games, and we've lost a couple, but we've won quite a few, as well.
“I don't know if we have one particular strength on the team other than the guys just love playing football. Other than the last game, our guys have really competed well and kept playing.
“I think our guys love football. They're loving it even more now when we're having success.”
“Jeff Worthy has been able to contribute quite a bit this year,” Rodriguez said. “He was banged up at times, missed some action throughout the season, but he's healthy now, played pretty good football.
“Went from Boise through the junior college route to join our program. Tickled to death to have him and his best football is still out in front of him.
“Jared has been one of our most consistent football players on either side of the ball the last couple years. He's a valuable guy defensively. He's intelligent. He runs well. He hits. He's just a great football player. He's had a fantastic year.
“I think he's been worthy of some all-conference mention, for us has been one of our most valuable players. Neat to see Jared go from a walk-on to a special teams player to a scholarship guy, to a full-time starter, and a very good one at that.”
Tevis was also a major reason why Rodriguez and company have been able to make a smooth transition.
“I think the biggest thing was the transition was pretty smooth for a new staff coming in,” Rodriguez said. “The senior classes have been so good in leadership. The first two senior classes we had last year and the year before, they were outstanding and did whatever we asked them to do. This year's senior class along the same lines.
“The transition has been smooth. I've been really proud of our staff. A lot of our staff has been together for a long, long time. They've had success before. In fact, they had success in the Fiesta Bowl the last time they were here.”