Although the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas is a relative newcomer to the ranks of NCAA post-season football contests, it has managed to offer some great showdowns and classic games. Here are some of the more memorable matchups from the past 17 years.
1995: Toledo Rockets vs. Nevada Wolf Pack
This Las Vegas bowl featured the Toledo Rockets against the Nevada Wolf Pack. This would be the only Las Vegas Bowl to be decided in overtime. By the end of the first quarter, fans had a pretty good indication of what the game would be like as Toledo went ahead early on a 31-yard TD run by quarterback Ryan Huzjak and later, Nevada's Ken Minor ran it in from two yards out to tie the contest. In quarter two, the Rockets went ahead by 14 on two rushing touchdowns by Wasean Tait. But with one-minute left in the half, the Wolf Pack's Minor crossed the goal again to pull his team to within seven.
A Nevada field goal put the Pack to within four points, but then the Rockets Dwayne Harris made a 16-yard run for another Toledo score. The extra point was missed, making it 27- 17. The Wolf Pack would not be deterred as Eric Bennett made a four-yard touchdown run to pull the team to within three.
The fourth quarter saw a total of 17 points scored. First, the Rockets went up 34- 24 on a 36-yard run by Tait. Then the Pack answered with 10 points as Minor rushed for his third score and Damon Shea tied the game 34-all on a 26-yard field goal. In OT, the Pack went ahead on Shea's third field goal of the game. With that score, the Rockets had one more chance to put points on the board or it would all be over. It was Tait who did in on a two-yard run, crossing the goal line for his fourth TD and the Toledo 40- 37 win.
1999: Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Utah Utes
The extra point in football can be a game maker or breaker. In the eighth Las Vegas Bowl, the Utah Utes (8- 3) would make the Fresno State Bulldogs (8- 4) pay dearly for a missed extra. After both teams scored seven in the first, neither put any points on the board in the second quarter. In the third quarter, placekicker Jeff Hanna hit a 27-yard field goal to put the Bulldogs up 10- 7. In that same quarter, running back Mike Anderson would score his second TD of the game and give the lead to the Utes. As the teams went into the fourth quarter, Utah led 14- 10. In the final stanza, Fresno State's Derrick Ward put his team ahead 16- 14 on a two-yard jaunt. But the extra point was missed. Utah kicker Cletus Truhe won it late in the fourth on a 33-yard field goal. The final was Utah 17 and Fresno State 16. The missed extra point proved to be the killer in this one.
2001: Utah Utes vs. USC Trojans
For fans that love a tough defensive game, then the 10th Las Vegas Bowl proved to be their cup of tea. One again, the Utah Utes (7- 4) were featured. This time they met the USC Trojans (6- 5). Utah scored first, notching a TD on a three-yard run by Adam Tate in the starting period. In the second quarter a 26-yard field goal put the Utes up 10 to zip at the half. In the third, USC's Sunny Byrd ran the ball in from the two. The extra point was missed. The score stood at 10- 6. The final quarter saw no scoring and Utah took the game by four points.
2004: UCLA Bruins vs. Wyoming Cowboys
This version of the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl saw an amazing come-from-behind victory as the UCLA Bruins (6- 5) met the Wyoming Cowboys (6- 5). This 13th Las Vegas Bowl would prove to be a lucky one for one club. After the first quarter, the Cowboys were on top 10 to zip. First Dave Yaussi hit a 39-yard field goal and then QB Corey Bramlet connected on a 10-yard toss to Tyler Holden.
But UCLA came back and by the end of the first half, the Bruins were ahead 14- 10. UCLA QB Drew Olson threw the first TD pass and then backup David Koral, in for an injured Olson, connected on the next score with pass catcher Craig Bragg. In the third, Koral threw a score to Jeff Taylor. It was Taylor's second touchdown of the game. The Bruins, who had shut out the Cowboys in the second and third quarters, were in front 21- 10.
In the fourth, Wyoming got their stalled offense going on a trick play as wideout Jovon Bouknight threw a strike to backup QB J.J. Raternick. That cut the lead to 21- 17. Then with 57 seconds left in the game, starting signal caller Corey Bramlet hit receiver John Wadkowski with a 12-yard pass. The Cowboys went on top 24- 21 and their “D” held the Bruins off as Wyoming took its first Las Vegas Bowl.
2007: BYU Cougars vs. UCLA Bruins
The Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl brought together two teams that had met that same year during the regular season: the BYU Cougars (10- 2) and the UCLA Bruins (6- 6). On September 8, 2007, the MWC's BYU Cougars lost a tough game to the Pac-12's UCLA Bruins 27- 17. In that initial meeting, UCLA seemed to have the game in control in the first half, but BYU came back in the third quarter. Ironically, when the two teams met for a second time that year, this time in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, BYU would once again score 17 points.
The first quarter of the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl saw each team kick a field goal. In the next quarter, the Bruins would get another three-pointer, but BYU would notch two TDs, giving them a 17- 6 lead. With time running out in the first half, the Cougars had possession. Instead of letting the clock expire, they had back Harney Unga run it up the middle. He fumbled and the Bruins took possession and rushed for a touchdown on the final play of the half. At the break, BYU led 17- 13.
The second half was dominated by defense. Not a point was scored in the third. In the fourth, the Bruins got to within one on a massive 50-yard field goal by Kai Forbath. At the end of the game, Forbath stepped up to attempt what was a chip shot: a 28-yard field goal. With the game on the line, the Cougar's Eathyn Manumaleuna blocked the kick and BYU defeated UCLA 17- 16.