UA FOOTBALL

Arizona football: Day 1 in New Mexico time for fun

Cats will 'turn it on' when preparation for bowl gets serious
2012-12-13T00:00:00Z Arizona football: Day 1 in New Mexico time for funRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 13, 2012 12:00 am  • 

ALBUQUERQUE - Sometime before they play their final college football game, Kyle Quinn and Trace Biskin will finish their first chess match.

The Arizona Wildcats' senior offensive linemen matched wits during Wednesday's flight from Tucson to Albuquerque.

"At first, I didn't know how serious we were going to take it," Biskin said. "But halfway through the flight, we were all sweaty. Our palms were sweating."

Quinn was forced to stash his iPad-turned-chessboard mid-match, the only downside to the 50-minute flight. The two linemen deplaned with plans to finish the match at the team hotel.

Wednesday was a day for games, both cerebral and silly.

The team arrived at Albuquerque International Sunport around 1 p.m. By 5 p.m., players, coaches and their families were scarfing pizza and salads playing arcade-style games at the New Mexico Bowl's welcome dinner.

Arizona (7-5) and Nevada (7-5) will play Saturday at 11 a.m. in the first game of the 2012-13 postseason.

Before that, though, both teams figure to have some fun.

Wednesday's dinner was a change from the "feed 'em and free 'em" approach normally taken by bowl games. The Wildcats played at a local game center for a few hours, winning tickets and spending tokens like little kids.

Backup quarterback B.J. Denker rode a plastic horse while playing "The Final Furlong," a Kentucky Derby-inspired game. Biskin took a crack at "Dance Dance Revolution," while Taimi Tutogi rode the Spinoli, a Tilt-a-Whirl on steroids.

Six inches and 88 pounds separate offensive tackle Mickey Baucus and safety Jared Tevis; Wednesday, they found an equalizer: "Mario Kart Racing."

Sufficiently tired - not to mention out of tokens - the Wildcats returned to their team hotel late Wednesday for a little shopping. Players chose from six tables' worth of electronics and games at the New Mexico Bowl's gift suite. Earlier Wednesday, they received Oakleys, beanies and some other bowl-branded clothes.

The first night in a new city was fun, coach Rich Rodriguez said. And while Arizona will turn its focus to Nevada starting today, there's still going to be room - and time - to create memories.

Rodriguez still remembers his first bowl game. He was a walk-on safety at West Virginia in 1981 when the Mountaineers played in the Peach Bowl. The trip to Atlanta marked Rodriguez's first-ever airplane ride; before he left, the UA coach was subjected to the trickery that's become tradition in sports.

"The upperclassmen said you couldn't get on without a boarding pass. Of course it was a charter plane, so there were no boarding passes," he said Wednesday. "I panicked for about an hour until I realized they were tricking me.

"We won the game, it was a good experience. It was something where, as a college player, you go, 'This is what it should be like.' It's kind of a big end goal for a football player."

Quinn, a fifth-year senior playing in his final game, said the New Mexico Bowl is "a chance for us to celebrate the success we've had this season."

The Wildcats will enjoy it until it's time to get serious.

"We don't have a game tomorrow. We don't have a game for a couple days," Tutogi said. "Coach Rod told us to kick back on the plane. We're here to have fun, but we're here to win a game.…

"There's a time to have fun, and there's a time to turn it on."

On StarNet: Sign up for Ryan Finley's Bowl Challenge at azstarnet.com/bowls

New Mexico Bowl

• Who: Arizona vs. Nevada

• When: 11 a.m. Saturday

• TV; radio: ESPN; 1290-AM, 1490-AM

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