The Wildcats stifled BYU quarterback Max Hall throughout the game, forcing him to scramble often, lose a fumble and throw an interception.
"We had to go with physical tackling--we had eight guys in the box at all times," linebacker Xavier Kelley said. "We had our ups and downs, and this is tremendous. It's amazing, amazing."
Arizona fans trickled onto the field as the last minute ticked off the game clock, then sprinted to midfield in celebration of the school's first bowl win since 1998, when it finished 12-1 and beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
"This was five years in the making. It all came together in the last month of the season," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "I couldn't be more proud of these seniors who brought Arizona back."
The Wildcats (8-5) kept the ball in the air most of the game. Tuitama threw a 71-yard pass to Terrell Turner that set up the first score, a 37-yard touchdown to Delashaun Dean that gave the Wildcats the lead for good, and a 24-yard strike to Chris Gronkowski that sent Cougars fans toward the exits.
Arizona's career passing leader added a 6-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give the Wildcats a 31-14 lead.
BYU (10-3) lost its bid to win three straight Las Vegas Bowls in four consecutive trips, ending a sloppy night with three missed field goals and 10 penalties for 76 yards.
The penalties twice cost BYU prime chances to tie or take the lead. Three straight flags just before halftime turned a third and 1 at the Arizona 19-yard line into a third and 16, and Mitch Payne ended the drive by missing a 40-yard field goal wide left. Arizona led at halftime 10-7.
The Cougars took their first lead of the game in the third quarter after Arizona lost a fumble at its own 29 on the first play of the half. BYU marched to the 1 with five running plays and Max Hall completed a play-action touchdown pass to Andrew George to put BYU up 14-10.
Nic Grigsby's 1-yard run on Arizona's first possession was set up by Turner's 71-yard catch. Turner cleared BYU's defense on the long pass play but was tackled from behind by Brandon Bradley just short of the end zone.
Grigsby fumbled deep in BYU territory on the next drive, turning the ball over at the 5 and ending a 62-yard drive without a score. But BYU fumbled on its next possession, resulting in a 31-yard field goal for the Wildcats.
BYU scored its first points midway in the second quarter, when Harvey Unga scampered into the end zone from the 1-yard line. Hall completed passes of 35 and 36 yards on the drive, including one to Austin Collie that gave the Cougars a first down on Arizona's 3-yard line.
**The Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl sold out for the fourth consecutive season and the crowd of 40,047 represented the fourth-biggest in the event's history and the seventh-largest in Sam Boyd Stadium history.
**Arizona appeared in its first Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl and won its first bowl game overall since 1998. The Wildcats' victory improved the Pac-10's record in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl to 5-4 overall.
**Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama was named the winner of the 2008 Rossi T. Ralenkotter Most Valuable Player Award and trophy. The senior completed 24-35 pass attempts for 325 and two touchdowns while rushing for 10 net yards and a six-yard score.
**Tuitama's pass to WR Terrell Turner that went for 71 yards in the first quarter tied for the second-longest pass play in Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl history (Mike Maxwell to Alex Van Dyke of Nevada vs. Toledo in 1995).
**Arizona's Mike Thomas became the Pac-10 Conference all-time leader in career receptions on the final play of the game, giving him 259 catches, passing previous record holder Derek Hagen of ASU.
**Tuitama's 24 completions were the most ever for a Pac-10 signal caller in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl.
**BYU quarterback Max Hall's 328 yards passing were the fourth-most in Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl history.
**Hall's 30 completions marked the second-most in Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl history behind 35 by BYU's John Beck in 2005. Hall's 46 attempts tied for the third-most in event history.
**The 653 combined passing yards by BYU (328) and Arizona (324) were the most for two teams in Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl history.
**BYU saw its two-game Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl winning streak snapped. The Cougars, who have played in the game more than any other team, fell to 2-2 all-time. BYU also fell to 10-3 all-time in games played at Sam Boyd Stadium, which includes games vs. UNLV and in WAC championship games.
**With BYU's loss, the Mountain West Conference's record in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl fell to 6-4 all-time.
**Austin Collie's 11 receptions were the third-most by a player in Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl history. Collie had 119 yards while teammate Michael Reed had 117 on nine catches. It marked the third time in bowl history that one team had two 100-yard receivers (UNLV in 1994 and Wyoming in 2004). Counting Terrell Turner's 111 yards on four grabs for Arizona, it marked the second time in Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl history that a game featured three 100-yard receivers (1994: UNLV two and Central Michigan one)
**Kellen Fowler had 15 total tackles for BYU and Xavier Kelley had the same amount for Arizona. Those totals both tied for the second-most by a player in Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl history (20 by Troy Polamalu of USC in 2001).
**The Wildcats finished the season at 8-5 after playing in their first bowl game since the 1998 Holiday Bowl, the year UA posted its best record at 12-1.
**BYU, which missed all three of its field-goal attempts, tuned the ball over three times. Quarterback Max Hall lost two fumbles and threw an interception as the Cougars, who were making their fourth straight appearance in the game, finished 10-3 overall.