Fifty-one weeks later, Rich Rodriguez still remembers the first conversation he had with the Arizona Wildcats.
Rodriguez could sense that his new team was down after missing the postseason in 2011 while finishing 4-8.
During a meeting in McKale Center, the new coach encouraged his team to remember the feeling of being left out.
"It didn't feel good being at home," offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele said. "It was sort of bittersweet. You got to spend time with your family, but really, this is my family now."
And because of it, the Wildcats are expecting to enjoy a family vacation this season.
Saturday's 56-31 win over Colorado makes the UA (6-4 overall, 3-4) bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. With a win in either of its final two games, Arizona can secure a postseason destination. The Wildcats will travel to Utah this week, then finish with a home game against Arizona State.
Simply making the postseason is huge. After all, it would allow the Wildcats to:
1. Practice their young guys. Bowls are rewards for solid play, but there's an element to the extra game that often goes overlooked. Teams that agree to play in bowl games get extra practice time, often as long as a month's worth. That time is often used to teach young players the system and develop starters for the following season.
Rodriguez said the extra time is crucial for the long-term health of the UA program. The Wildcats must replace a half-dozen starters, including quarterback Matt Scott, in 2013.
"These young guys have to learn how to play," Rodriguez said. "In fact, we're going to have to teach them how to play."
2. Reward their seniors. From the beginning, Rodriguez told his players that he wasn't rebuilding in 2012 - he was working hard so they could make the postseason.
Saturday's win makes it highly likely. The UA seniors have been a big part of the resurgence this season. Quarterback Matt Scott, receiver Dan Buckner and center Kyle Quinn have been crucial components on offense.
Buckner said being bowl eligible "feels great." He was on Arizona's roster, but had to sit out because of transfer rules, when the team played in the 2010 Alamo Bowl.
"I'm nearing the end of my college career. To get that extra one (game), it feels great," he said. "It feels good to come out and be bowl-eligible with two games left to go."
3. Make a run at the record book. Tailback Ka'Deem Carey set the UA's single-game yardage and touchdown records against Colorado, gaining 366 yards on 25 carries. With a few more solid performances, he can become one of the best in program history. Consider: Carey has rushed for 1,381 yards through 10 games, a 138.1 yards-per-game average that's tops in the Pac-12. With 222 more yards this season, Carey will eclipse Trung Canidate's mark, set in 1999, for most rushing yards in a season. He is just four rushing touchdowns away from breaking Art Luppino's mark of 21 scores in a season, set in 1954.
Arizona's bowl game makes the running back's road that much easier. Of course, with another game like he had against Colorado, Carey won't need any help.
"Ka'Deem Carey," Rodriguez said, "was Ka'Deem Carey."
• Carey was named the College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Week and the National Running Back of the Week for his performance against the Buffaloes. The Pac-12 will announce its players of the week today; it'd be a shock if Carey didn't win the league's award for offense.
• Saturday's game at Utah will kick off at 8 p.m. and be shown nationally on ESPNU, the Pac-12 announced Sunday. The late start time could mean a chilly game for the warm-weather Cats. Forecasts call for a high of 49 degrees and a low of 38 in Salt Lake City.
On StarNet: Follow the Wildcats on Ryan Finley's blog at: azstarnet.com/finley
Pac-12 bowl tie-ins (7 games)
Dec. 15: New Mexico Bowl (Pac-12 No. 7 vs. Mountain West No. 4/5)
Dec. 22: Las Vegas Bowl (Pac-12 No. 5 vs. Mountain West No. 1)
Dec. 27: Holiday Bowl (Pac-12 No. 3 vs. Big 12 No. 5)
Dec. 29: Fight Hunger Bowl (Pac-12 No. 6 vs. Navy)
Dec. 29: Alamo Bowl (Pac-12 No. 2 vs. Big 12 No. 3)
Dec. 31: Sun Bowl (Pac-12 No. 4 vs. ACC No. 4)
Jan. 1: Rose Bowl (Pac-12 No. 1 vs. Big Ten No. 1)
Note: The Pac-12 champion would skip the Rose Bowl if it qualifies for the BCS National Championship Game. In that case, the game would have its choice of remaining teams - including those from the Pac-12.
In (7 teams)
Remaining games listed after record:
• Oregon (10-0, 7-0): vs. Stanford, at Oregon State
• Stanford (8-2, 6-1): at Oregon, at UCLA
• UCLA (8-2, 5-2): vs. USC, vs. Stanford
• Oregon State (7-2, 5-2): vs. Cal, vs. Oregon, vs. Nicholls State
• USC (7-3, 5-3): at UCLA, vs. Notre Dame
• Washington (6-4, 4-3): at Colorado, at Washington State
• Arizona (6-4, 3-4): at Utah, vs. Arizona State
With a chance (2 teams)
• Arizona State (5-5, 3-4): vs. Washington State, at Arizona
• Utah (4-6, 2-5): vs. Arizona, at Colorado
Note: If there are more bowl-eligible teams than Pac-12 affiliated slots, other bowls can invite Pac-12 teams.
• Who: Arizona (6-4, 3-4) at Utah (4-6, 2-5)
• When: 8 p.m., Saturday
• TV: ESPNU
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM