Cats, Cougars Welcomed By Vegas Bowl

Dec. 9, 2008

LAS VEGAS (Dec. 9, 2008) – At a media conference Tuesday at the ESPN Zone located inside the New York-New York Hotel on the famed Las Vegas Strip, the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl officially welcomed BYU (10-2 overall/6-2) of the Mountain West Conference and the University of Arizona (7-5/5-4) of the Pacific-10 Conference.

The event marked the official start of activities for the Saturday, Dec. 20 (5 p.m. PST on ESPN & ESPN HD) showdown between the Cougars (visiting team) and the Wildcats (home team) at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Representatives from the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority gathered on the Strip to welcome the head coaches and athletic administrators from BYU and Arizona in true Las Vegas fashion. The press conference also featured appearances by two record-setting player representatives: BYU’s Jan Jorgensen, a junior defensive end who is already his league’s all-time leader in QB sacks with 22.5, and Arizona’s Willie Tuitama, a senior all-conference performer that is his school’s career passing leader.

The 17th edition of the game is a matchup of two high-powered offenses. The No. 16/17 Cougars are the highest-ranked team to ever compete in the event and stand 19th in the FBS with 35.3 points per game. BYU will be making its fourth consecutive trip to the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl and looks for its third straight victory in the game.

The Wildcats (currently 16th nationally in scoring at 37.1 PPG) will play in the state of Nevada for the first time since traveling to Reno in 1924 and are making their first postseason appearance anywhere since winning the 1998 Holiday Bowl.

“We look forward to showcasing two of the highest-scoring offenses in college football going against each other in front of a sold-out crowd on December 20th,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “BYU has proved to not only be extremely popular in our community but also a top-notch competitor in our game under head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

“On the other side, we congratulate head coach Mike Stoops and his Wildcats team for winning their way into the bowl. Our executive committee is ecstatic to be hosting Arizona in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl for the first time.”

While BYU and Arizona will face each other in a bowl game for the first time, it marks the 22nd meeting between the two programs in a series that dates back to 1936. Arizona leads 11-9-1 all-time but the teams split a recent home-and-home series. The Wildcats prevailed 16-13 to open the 2006 season in Tucson and the Cougars won 20-7 on Sept. 1, 2007, in Provo, Utah.

While Arizona returns to the bowl business for the first time in a decade, it has compiled an all-time mark of 5-7-1, including winning its last two. While they hosted UNLV in 2001, the Wildcats have never played a football game in Las Vegas. Coincidentally, Arizona’s men’s basketball team plays the Runnin’ Rebels on the UNLV campus on the same day of the bowl game with a noon tipoff at the Thomas & Mack Center.

'We're more than pleased to renew our postseason football participation with a visit to the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl,” said Arizona Director of Athletics Jim Livengood. “It's a wonderful destination for our fans, there's a connection with our basketball team in the city on the same day and it's just great to be back in this kind of situation. Coach Mike Stoops, his staff and the team have worked hard to get us in this position and we're thrilled to be in Las Vegas.'

Announcing the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, which is owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television (ERT), will be Mike Patrick (play by play) and Todd Blackledge (analyst) while Holly Rowe will report from the sidelines. The game will also be broadcast nationally on the Sports USA Radio Network and along the Armed Forces Radio Network.

This will mark the fourth consecutive sellout for the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl as tickets not designated for the participating teams sold out earlier this month. 

Arizona Press Conference Quotes    


Arizona Athletics Director

“I’m so very proud of Mike and our football staff and our players for what they’ve done in terms of persevering and growing this program. It’s an amazing journey and it’s not done yet. This is going to be a great game. It’s exciting to be back in the bowl business after 10 years. Some of things we’re experiencing right now are kind of first-time things for us. We’re also excited to be in Las Vegas and I don’t know that there would be a better opponent other than Brigham Young University in terms of our two schools and conferences and what we stand for. We’re going to hold up our end and help make sure that this is one of the great bowl games not only in Las Vegas Bowl history but in all the 2008-09 season. “


Mike Stoops

Arizona Head Coach

“Thanks so much for this unbelievable opportunity. I can tell you that our players and our fans are very excited about this matchup with a traditional power of not only the Mountain West but in all of college football. This bowl game I believe has grown in the last 17 years than any other bowl game. I had the opportunity to come watch BYU play Oregon here a couple of years ago. Watching first-hand, I really couldn’t believe the excitement in the stadium that night with an overflowing crowd. To watch it was inspirational to me and something that we’ve wanted to accomplish for out team for many years. It’s been a long journey to get to this point but I couldn’t be more proud of our players, especially the seniors, for enduring some of the tough times you have to go through to rebuild a program. It’s going to be an incredible game. We have tremendous respect for BYU and Coach Mendenhall.”


Willie Tuitama

Arizona Senior Quarterback

“No one on our team has ever been in a bowl game. This is our first time. We hear our coaches telling stories about the bowl games they’ve been to so we’re definitely excited to be here. BYU is a great team -- a top-20 team. We’re looking forward to coming out here and having a good time and playing some good football.”


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