The crowd was filled with patriotic fervor as flags appeared on shirts, as body paint, and being waived with pride. After a moment of silence and a moving national anthem, the Wildcat offense put on a show.
The Cats amassed 440 yards of total offense in the game. Tremaine Cox played the best game of his very young career, gaining 111 yards on only eight carries. Jason Johnson had another steady night, throwing for 247 yards and completing 60% of his passes.
The Wildcats started the game in impressive fashion. Gary Love gave the Cats good field position as he took the opening kickoff to the 39-yard line. The Cats methodically moved the ball down field mixing the run and pass. The Wildcats kept the drive alive by converting a fourth and one play deep in Rebel territory. Johnson faked the handoff to Clarence Farmer, sucking the defense in and then hitting a wide-open Mike Detwiler for the first down. Two plays later Johnson connected with Bobby Wade in the corner of the endzone for a 14-yard scoring strike.
UNLV evened it up using a big defensive play. On third and long the Cats went with the option. Johnson rolled around the left side and flipped the ball to Farmer who had it bounce off his hands. Rebel defensive end Ahmad Briggs scooped up the loose ball and cruised 30 yards for the score.
The Rebels missed a chance at taking the lead after blocking a Sean Keel field goal attempt. A long pass play got the Rebels inside the Arizona 25, but the defense clamped down and UNLV kicker Dillon Pieffer missed the 41-yard attempt.
The Wildcats took advantage of the miss and marched marched down the field. Johnson showed his steadiness under fire, connecting with Bobby Wade on a 14-yard pass despite being crushed by a Rebel pass rusher. The Cats appeared to score on a beautiful pass from Johnson to Brandon Marshall, but the ball slipped through the senior receiver's hands. On the previous drive Andrae Thurman had dropped what appear to be a certain touchdown. Johnson came right back and hit tight end James Hugo over the middle for a 14-yard score and the Cats led 14-7.
The Cats struck again, this time on the ground. Tremaine Cox took a delayed inside handoff, found a gaping hole on the line and strolled 80 yards untouched for his first career touchdown.
UNLV's offense never got on track. As a team the Rebels managed a measly 96 yards, most coming on two long pass plays of 33 and 36 yards. Arizona, on the other hand, racked up a stellar 331 yards of total offense.
The Rebel defense clamped down on the Cats for most of the third quarter. The Rebel defense limited the Cats to only 71 yards for the first 14:00 of the quarter.
In the quarter's final moment a Michael Jolivette hit caused a Rebel fumble and Lance Briggs gathered up the ball at the UNLV 26-yard line. Wade gained 11 yards a reverse,then Johnson found the junior receiver on almost an identical pass as the first quarter score. The 14-yard toss put the Wildcats up 31-7.
The fourth quarter saw UNLV try to get back into the game. Thomas capitalized on a Jolivette slip, and hit Troy Mason on a long strike to put the Rebels at the Arizona six. Joe Haro capped the drive by bouncing a handoff to the outside and beating the Wildcat defense to the corner of the endzone. The touchdown cut the Wildcat lead to 17, 31-14.
Now it was the defense's turn. Thomas attempted a screen pass, but his throw was ruled a lateral. Mason mishandled the pass and Jolivette scooped up the fumble and waltzed 40 yards for the score.
The Rebels tacked on a late touchdown but it was too little too late as the Cats coasted to the 38-21 victory.