LOS ANGELES — When Boston College became bowl eligible for the first time since 2010 by winning its sixth game of the season, against North Carolina State Nov. 16, it rejoiced in a turnaround from a team that won just two games last season.
But the Eagles knew it did not guarantee them a bowl berth.
In a crowded field of 11 bowl-eligible teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, BC knew it was going to take at least seven wins to do the trick. With a rousing 29-26 victory in the penultimate game of the regular season, at Maryland Nov. 23, the Eagles sealed their fate, but were left to wonder when, where, and against whom they would play in the postseason.
BC (7-5) learned of its destination and opponent Sunday, accepting an invitation to play Arizona (7-5) in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, formerly known as the Independence Bowl, Dec. 31 at 12:30 p.m. in Shreveport, La.
“We are so thrilled to be going to Shreveport and proud of this team for how they inspired us and energized our fan base,’’ said BC athletic director Brad Bates. “This was a team that worked so hard, through adversity, with great leadership, especially from the senior class.’’
The game, the first meeting between the schools, will feature a matchup of two of the nation’s top running backs: BC’s Andre Williams and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey.
“I’m really excited,’’ said BC coach Steve Addazio. “We’re playing a Pac-12 team, a team that’s 7-5 like us, a team that has a great running back like us, both Doak Walker finalists, so it’s going to be an exciting matchup.’’
Addazio said Williams, who became the 16th player in FBS history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, suffered a slight separation of his right shoulder in the second half of the 34-31 loss at Syracuse Nov. 30, but is expected to play in the bowl game.
“He’s going to be fine,’’ Addazio said. “He won’t be doing much for about a month and he won’t have much contact. By the time we get to game time, I’m sure he’ll be feeling good. He should be healed totally by the time we get ready to play.’’
Carey, a 5-foot-10-inch, 196-pound junior from Tucson, rushed 322 times for 1,716 yards and 17 touchdowns to help the Wildcats, led by ex-Michigan and West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, finish fourth in the Pac-12 South.
Arizona has lost three of its last four games, the victory a 42-16 decision over fifth-ranked Oregon, a game in which Carey rushed 48 times for 206 yards and four touchdowns.
“This team we’re playing is a heck of a team,’’ Addazio said. “They held Oregon to 16 points when they beat them, they’ve got some really skilled athletes, they’ve got some speed. It’s going to be a really, really tough game, but I think our team really needs to keep being challenged, so I’m glad that we’re playing such a tough opponent.’’
It was speculated BC might be involved in securing an at-large berth in the Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Bowl against a Conference-USA opponent. The prospect of the Eagles returning to the Cotton Bowl on the 29th anniversary of Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie’s appearance there excited BC fans eager to revisit the program’s past bowl glory. But it became clear it was not likely to be a viable scenario when Advocare V100 Bowl officials expressed interest in bringing the Eagles to Shreveport to play a Pac-12 opponent when the Southeastern Conference fell one team short of fulfilling its bowl obligations.
“This will be a great celebration of Coach Addazio, this team, and these seniors,’’ said Paul Criscione, who as BC’s Gridiron Club president will attempt to mobilize fans to travel to Shreveport for the New Year’s Eve game.
“This will be a great testimony and great celebration for this team,’’ Criscione said. “Because, looking in the mirror, not a lot of people at Boston College had us winning seven games and going to any bowl game, never mind Shreveport against a real quality Pac-12 opponent in Arizona. So, this is a great achievement. We got spoiled. BC football nation got spoiled where we went to 12 straight bowl games. So, going to bowl games is not a birthright, it’s a privilege and it takes a tremendous amount of work that this staff and this staff has put in, so we got to sell it and celebrate it.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.