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Arizona upsets BYU 31-21

Wildcats claim first bowl victory in 10 seasons

Las Vegas Bowl

Leila Navidi

Arizona’s Terrell Turner celebrates a win over BYU during the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday. Arizona won the game 31-21.

Updated Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008 | 8:48 p.m.

Ten Years in the Making

In its first bowl-appearance in ten years, Arizona upended Las Vegas Bowl-regular BYU 31-21.

Las Vegas Bowl

Arizona celebrates a win over BYU during the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday. Arizona won the game 31-21. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas Bowl Preview

Watch Arizona and BYU players preview the Las Vegas Bowl plus Alex and Ryan Greene breakdown the game in their new sunglasses.

Expanded coverage

Mike Stoops has waited a long time for this Gatorade shower.

In their first bowl game in 10 years, the Arizona Wildcats trounced the No. 16 BYU Cougars 31-21 sending a wave of red and blue clad fans storming onto the field.

Be sure to visit for all the post game analysis, stories, photos and videos.

Fourth quarter:

This is it. One quarter to go and Arizona has claimed a commanding 24-14 lead to start the fourth quarter.

Another fumble -- what a surprise! This time it was Hall getting drilled by Xavier Kelly. The Wildcats recovered, but could not do much on offense. Arizona lined up for a field goal, but instead tried a surprise pooch punt that did not really work. BYU takes over on its own 22-yard line with 12:39 remaining in the game.

Arizona's highly touted secondary just came up huge in the final quarter as Marquis Hundley stepped in front of Collie to intercept a wobbly Hall pass in the end zone. Hundley returned the ball to the 18-yard line as the Wildcats take over with 10:03 left to play.

The powers-that-be in the press box just announced that the official attendance is 40,047, which is the fourth largest crowd in Las Vegas bowl history and the seventh-largest in Sam Boyd stadium history. I wonder what that number would have dropped to if TCU were playing tonight instead of BYU.

Can you spell MVP? Tuitama just scrambled six yards to extend the Wildcats' lead to 31-14 with 6:09 left in the game. Tuitama is 23-of-34 for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He has personally accounted for 21 points tonight. Cue the fat lady

Hall just added a meaningless touchdown with 3:38 remaining with a goal line dive. The Cougars now trail 31-21.

Well, this could get interesting. BYU recovered the onside kick and are 48 yards from the end zone.

Put this one in the books. Mitch Payne booted a 38-yard field goal directly into the left upright. The Wildcats are now two minutes from their first bowl victory in 10 years.

Third quarter:

Arizona starts the third quarter heading north toward the scoreboard at its own 29-yard line.

This is just getting ridiculous. Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama fumbled the first snap of the half and BYU recovered on the Wildcats' 27-yard line. This game has been sloppier than Sean Avery's ex-girlfriends.

I'm now more confused than Paris Hilton in a thrift store. The Wildcats made two goal-line stands to force a fourth-and-one. The teams lined up for fourth down when the refs stopped the game and said Arizona used 12 players the last play, so they said the play should reset to third down and inches. But then the refs reversed their own reversal and headed to the review booth. I wish I could explain better, but the refs don't even know what is going on.

OK, so now it is third down inches from the goal line and Hall finds tight end Andrew George in the back of the end zone for an easy touchdown. After the longest third down in history, BYU snags its first lead of the game, 14-10 with 11:21 left in the third quarter.

Injury update: BYU running back Fui Vakapuna separated his shoulder and will not return tonight.

This game is simply special. Collie seemingly fumbled the ball after running into his own blocker and Arizona safety Nate Ness came up with the ball on BYU's 11-yard line with 8:09 left in the third quarter. The play is under review, which means about nothing with this jackpot of an officiating crew. This is the sixth fumble of the game.

Sure enough...the BYU Bowl refs made another huge call in favor of the Cougars. The refs reversed the ruling on the field after an hour-long replay session and BYU now has a second-and-13 from its own 20-yard line. Stoops is rightfully fuming.

On another note...over-under on total game time is now set at 4.5 hours - I'll take the over.

Nothing like a little zebra confusion to fire you up. The Wildcats answered back with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Tuitama to Delashaun Dean. Arizona regains the lead 17-14 with 7:07 remaining in the quarter.

An offensive pass interference penalty proved costly to the Cougars as BYU's Justin Sorensen missed a 53-yard field goal attempt short. The Wildcats are now on the drive.

Arizona has found its stride, moving 65 yards in one minute and 48 seconds as Tuitama hit tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 24-yard touchdown. The Wildcats lead 24-14 with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.

Halftime report:

Note to self -- never stand near a plate of cookies in a press box or you will get trampled.

Arizona's marching band definitely won the halftime battle of the bands where there domino-like fall at the end of their performance.

As the second half nears, the Cougars better be praying (well, that's a given), but they should be thankful that they are only trailing 10-7. I guess we just have to wait and see if BYU brings any enthusiasm to the second half.

Second quarter:

Grigsby just picked a horrible time for his first red zone fumble of the season. The Wildcats were poised to bust open a huge lead early in this contest when he mishandled a toss at the five-yard line. BYU's Matt Bauman recovered and injected new life into the Cougar sideline.

This time it is BYU with a case of the butter fingers as quarterback Max Hall lost control of the ball while trying to fight off a sack. Somehow Arizona cornerback Devin Ross came out from the scrum with the ball. Arizona takes over on BYU's 24-yard line.

Facing a fourth and a very short-one at BYU's 14-yard line, Stoops decided to go for it rather than kick the easy field goal. BYU smartly called a timeout when they saw the offense line up. I guess Stoops was attempting to draw an offside call as he elected to kick the field goal following the timeout. Jason Bondzio drilled the 31-yard field goal and Arizona now leads 10-0 with 9:21 left in the first half.

Hall finally found his favorite receiver, Austin Collie, deep down field for a 36-yard completion, which set up the Cougars with a first-and-goal from the three-yard line. Collie now has five catches for 59 yards.

Two plays later Harvey Unga capped off a six-play, 78-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. BYU is back in this one, trailing 10-7 with 6:50 remaining in the half.

For the record, their is absolutely no precipitation here, but BYU punt returner Reed White fumbled again. The Cougars clearly recovered the ball, but both the referee and the field judge must have had a little too much fun on the Strip, because they continued to signal that Arizona recovered the ball. Now that the confusion is over, BYU is trying to score again before halftime.

Injury update: BYU running back Fui Vakapuna left the game with an injured shoulder and will be evaluated at halftime. His return status is not yet known.

BYU kicker Mitch Payne just pulled a 40-yard field goal attempt wide left, so the Wildcats remain on top 10-7 with less than two minutes in the half.

Not sure what BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is thinking, but he just called a timeout with one second on the clock. With a fourth-and-seven, Arizona just took a knee. Real nice call Bronco. As both teams head to the locker room, Arizona still leads 10-7.

First quarter:

The F-15s roared over Sam Boyd Stadium and "The Hoff" escaped without butchering the National Anthem, so all is well for kickoff. I never understood why games set ridiculous kickoff times like 5:06 p.m., because they definitely missed that mark tonight.

Arizona has won the coin toss and elected to defer. The Wildcats will kick south to north toward the scoreboard side of the stadium. The weather is clear and cold with little wind.

And the ball is kicked officially at 5:10 p.m. I'll be in touch football fans.

The Arizona defense came up strong on the first drive and forced BYU to punt. But now Willie Tuitama and the Wildcats' offense has to start on their own four-yard line. 9:44 remaining in the first quarter.

The Wildcats pulled off the first big play of the game as Tuitama connected with Terrell Turner for 71 yards that took Arizona down to the goal line. Nic Grigsby easily punched in the one-yard touchdown to cap off an eight play, 96-yard scoring drive that only took 3:20. The Wildcats now lead 7-0 with 6:23 left in the opening quarter.

BYU just caught a huge break as returner O'Neill Chambers fumbled the ensuing kickoff and it appeared that Arizona had a clear shot to scoop up the loose ball, but it bounced off a Wildcat defender and went out of bounds. The Cougars will start on their own 28-yard line.

Well, that drive was worthless. Arizona forced a three-and-out and will take over at its own 29-yard line. My co-worker Ryan Greene is already talking trash to our intern for picking BYU to win. Simmer down boys, still plenty of football left to be played.

I just saw a replay in the press box that showed Arizona receiver Mike Thomas shoving coach Mike Stoops on the sidelines. That T.O. moment was ugly, but it certainly makes the case that Arizona is truly fired up for this game.

At the end of one, the Wildcats lead the Cougars 7-0, but Arizona is poised for another score. The Wildcats have strung together nine plays for 42 yards and will begin the second quarter with a 2nd-and-two on BYU's 29-yard line.


The sun is setting behind the press box at the sold-out Sam Boyd Stadium, which means it is almost time for the 17th Las Vegas Bowl. I'm not sure who is left in the office, because it seems like the entire Las Vegas Sun sports staff is in the stadium right now.

I personally can't wait for David Hasselhoff's rendition of the National Anthem. Hopefully there are no Wendy's cheeseburgers on the turf.

But since there is a football game tonight, here are some of my colleague's predictions:

Controversial columnist Ron Kantowski - Arizona 42, BYU 34.

Mr. UNLV Ryan Greene - Arizona 36, BYU 12.

Sports intern extraordinaire Brett Okamoto - BYU 31, Arizona 24. He claims Mountain West teams are 6-1 against Pac-10 teams this year.

Video vixen Christine Killimayer - Arizona, 27, BYU 20

All-In Alex Adeyanju - BYU 34, Arizona 28.

Home News Sports Editor Ray Brewer - Arizona 20, BYU 18.

Finally, I'm taking the team that actually wants to be in this game so Arizona pulls this one out 24-17. Plus, the Arizona after-parties are going to be a bit more fun than BYU's water-pong games.

Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].

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