Cougars hope to win 11 games for 3rd straight year; Cats are hungry
Arizona is not the only motivated team in the Las Vegas Bowl.
No. 17 BYU also has reason to be fired up for Saturday’s game at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“I think you’ll see two hungry teams,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I think you’ll see an (Arizona) team come in anxious to establish themselves against a nationally ranked opponent and kind of move their program forward.
“Then you have a program in BYU where we have a chance to win 11 games for the third straight year and three straight bowl victories . . . to say our team is satisfied certainly isn’t the case. Both teams have an argument for something to play for.”
The Cougars finished the regular season 10-2 and a fourth straight trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. A win could help BYU start high in the 2009 preseason rankings.
“We are going to have a very good team (coming back) and it’s important we are going to start out high in the rankings,” quarterback Max Hall said. “We know this game can really help us. Arizona is a good team. I think they are better than their record shows.”
The Wildcats want to prove they are better than their 7-5 finish, including 5-4 in the Pac-10.
Losing five games by a combined 28 points has Arizona feeling a little snake-bitten.
The Wildcats are out to prove themselves in their first postseason game since 1998.
“It’s exciting to be back in the bowl business after 10 years,” Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood said. “Some of the things we’re experiencing right now are kind of first-time things for us.”
The newness of the bowl experience should have the Wildcats amped up.
“No one on our team has ever been in a bowl game,” UA quarterback Willie Tuitama said. “We hear our coaches telling stories about the bowl games they’ve been to so we’re definitely excited to be here.”
Everything will be old hat to the Cougars, who lost to California in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl before beating Oregon (2006) and UCLA (2007) in the event.
“It makes a tremendous difference. They have been to ESPN Zone and seen the hotels,” UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said. “They are going to be more comfortable having been there and having been successful.”
“If you look at the bowl games . . . (often) who is going to win is not based on who is the better team but based on who wants to be there the most, and who is going to be the most excited,” Dykes said. “Hopefully we are not going to be wide-eyed and hopefully we go down there with a business-like approach.”
Arizona has won its last two bowls, the 1997 Insight.com over New Mexico and the 1998 Holiday over Nebraska.
The Wildcats are 5-7-1 overall in bowl games.
UA coaches have plenty of bowl experience, but they have a special appreciation for the Las Vegas Bowl.
“I went to seven straight bowls at Texas Tech, and my last year at Kentucky. You get to the point where you take it for granted,” Dykes said. “When you go through the type of year we went through last year it does make you appreciate it a little more.
“Seeing these kids grow and the confidence they can win every time we step on the field is really important and gratifying.”
LAS VEGAS BOWL
Arizona (7-5) vs. No. 17 BYU (10-2)
When: 6 p.m. Dec. 20
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
Line: UA by 3
Arizona’s bowl results through the years:
Year Bowl Opponent Score
1921 Christmas Classic Centre (Ky.) L, 38-0
1949 Salad Drake L, 14-13
1969 Sun Auburn L, 34-10
1979 Fiesta Pittsburgh L, 16-10
1985 Sun Georgia T, 13-13
1986 Aloha North Carolina W, 30-21
1989 Copper North Carolina St. W, 17-10
1990 Aloha Syracuse L, 28-0
1992 Hancock Baylor L, 20-15
1993 Fiesta Miami W, 29-0
1994 Freedom Utah L, 16-13
1997 Insight.com New Mexico W, 20-14
1998 Holiday Nebraska W, 23-20