Wildcats Tame Cougars in Vegas
by Mike Mitchell
December 20, 2008
Arizona made the plays when it needed to for a 31-21 Las Vegas Bowl win over BYU. Statistically, the game was a draw with the Cougars outgaining the Wildcats 444-418. Passing was even at 328 yards each.
Arizona scored 21 straight points after BYU had taken a 14-10 lead early in the 3rd quarter. After BYU fumbled a punt return, Willie Tuitama connected with Delashaun Dean on a 37-yard touchdown pass. The Cougars missed a 53-yard field goal on their next possession and Arizona lengthened its lead with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Tuitama to Chris Gronkowski just five plays later.
BYU's next two possessions ended with a fumble and an interception, giving the 'Cats too many opportunities to pull away. Ultimately, they did just that when Tuitama ran in from 6 yards out to make it 31-14.
The Cougars got to within 31-21 with 3:38 still left, and recovered the ensuing onside kick. But Mitch Payne, who went 0-for-3 on the evening, missed a 38-yard field goal and BYU never got the ball back again.
Payne also missed a 40-yarder that would have tied the game at 10-apiece with 2:01 left in the first half.
Arizona's final play was a 6-yard pass to Mike Thomas so he could set a new PAC-10 record with his 259th career reception.
BYU was making their fourth consecutive Las Vegas Bowl appearance and is now 2-2 in those games. The Cougars saw their overall bowl record drop to 9-17-1.
Arizona ended a nine-year absence from the postseason with its third consecutive win in a bowl game. The Wildcats are 6-7-1 in their bowl history.
Arizona completed the season with an 8-5 record. BYU finished 10-3 with losses in its last two games, including a 48-24 setback at Utah in the regular season finale.
Prior to the bowl win over BYU, the Wildcats' win over California (8-4) was its' only victory in 2008 over a team with a winning record.