Brigham Young University Cougars football

Brigham Young University Cougars football

The Brigham Young University Cougars are a college football program that competes in NCAA Division I-A and the Mountain West Conference. Despite being considered a mid-major program, the Cougars have been successful when competing against other Division I-A teams. The Cougars won the national championship in 1984 and also have a Heisman Trophy winner in Ty Detmer. They are the last "mid-major" program to have achieved both distinctions. Brigham Young University (BYU) also holds the NCAA record for most consecutive games without being shutout - 361 games over 28 years. The Cougars have won 23 conference championships and played in 26 bowl games, going 9-16-1 in them.

In 2007, the Cougars finished first in the MWC and ranked 14th in the BCS, AP and ESPN/USA today coaches poll. For the third year in a row, they played in the Las Vegas Bowl against a Pac-10 opponent. In a rare rematch, BYU played UCLA, to whom they lost on September 8, 2007 by a score of 27-17 in the Rose Bowl. BYU won the rematch by a score of 17 to 16 when a potential game-winning field goal attempt by UCLA's Kai Forbath was partially blocked by Eathyn Manumaleuna with 3 seconds left in the game.


The early years

Football made a brief appearance at Brigham Young Academy in 1896, but was discontinued in 1903. It didn't get its official start at Brigham Young University until 1922. The team struggled during the first couple of seasons, but in 1928, BYU hired G. Ott Romney, who gave the school its first winning seasons.

Pre-World War II successes

Ott Romney and Eddie Kimball ushered in a new era in cougar football in which the team went 65-51-12 between 1928-1942. In 1932, the Cougars posted a 8-1 record and outscored their oppponents 188-50, which remains one of the school's finest seasons on record. Also, it was during this era that they first beat the Utes from the University of Utah. Since 1922, they had gone 0-17-3 against them. In 1942, BYU finally broke through and beat the Utes by a score of 12-7 in Salt Lake City. The university did not field a team from 1943-1945 due to World War II.

Both Kimball (34-32-8) and Romney (42-31-5) finished their respective terms as head coach with winning records, and they are joined by LaVell Edwards, Gary Crowton and current head coach Bronco Mendenhall as the only coaches to do so. In 1975, Kimball and Romney were inducted into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame.

Post-World War II trauma

After the war, BYU struggled in the return to football and went 61-123-8 between 1946-1964. They did have 4 winning seasons during this time period but success was never sustained. Also, this period was marked by only 1 win versus Utah in 1958. By 1964, the series with the Utes stood at 2-34-4.


Slowly, the program improved and began to again show some signs of life. Head coach Hal Kopp engineered back-to-back winning seasons in 1957 and 1958. For the first time in its history, the University made a real commitment to football. In 1964, Cougars' stadium was built and had a capacity of 30,000. Also, in 1961, BYU experienced national success when Eldon "The Phantom" Fortie was honored as the school's first All-American as a running back. His #40 was retired by BYU to honor his accomplishments. In 1965 Virgil Carter was honored as the first quarterback from BYU to be selected first team All-Conference. The biggest accomplishment of this era was in 1965 when Head coach Tommy Hudspeth led the cougars earned their first conference championship with a record of 6-4. Coach Hudspeth retired in 1972 and finished with a record of 39-42-1. Despite not finishing with a winning record as head coach, he did lead the cougars to 3 winning seasons between 1965 and 1967.

In 1962, the program made its most important hire ever when LaVell Edwards was hired from Granite High School in Salt Lake City Utah. Coach Edwards was successful at running the single-wing and served as an assistant coach until Coach Hudspeth's resignation in 1972.

The classic Edwards era

Soon after he was named head coach (in 1972), LaVell Edwards revamped the Cougar offensive attack. While everyone else in college football was using run-heavy offenses such as the veer and wishbone, Edwards and his staff installed a drop-back passing game. Ironically, in its first year, the new offense produced the nation's leading rusher in Pete Van Valkenburg, who ran for 1,386 yards. In 1973, Gary Sheide took over as quarterback and the Cougars struggled to a 5-6 finish. This would be the only time that Edwards would have a losing season during his run as BYU coach. In 1974, Sheide led the Cougars to their first conference championship under Edwards, including a 21-18 victory over Arizona St., ending the Sun Devils domination of the WAC.

A new era dawned in Provo, in which BYU began to excel in football and consistently win. BYU finished in a tie for the conference championship in 1976 and 1977. The following year, they began a string of outright WAC titles that lasted until 1985. However, they lost their first 4 bowl games. In 1980, they appeared to be on their way to their fifth consecutive bowl loss, trailing SMU 45-25 with four minutes left in the Holiday Bowl. During these final four minutes, the Cougars scored 21 points to upend the Mustangs and record one of the greatest bowl comeback wins in college footbal history. BYU would win their 1981, 1983 and 1984 bowl games as well. Also part of the new era was success against Utah. Up until 1964, the Cougars were 2-34-4. From 1965 to 1992, the Cougars were 22-6 against the Utes.

BYU also produced several All-American quarterbacks during this time and earned the nickname "Quarterback U." Gifford Nielson, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon and Steve Young were all named first team All-American. In 1984, BYU, led by quarterback Robbie Bosco, who had finished third in the Heisman voting, finished the year undefeated at 12-0 and ranked #1 in both polls. They played a 6-5 Michigan in the Holiday bowl and won 24-17. After the College football season ended, BYU was voted by the media and coaches as the NCAA Champion at 13-0.

The title opened new doors of opportunity for BYU football. In 1985, the Cougars were invited to play in the Kickoff Classic, where they scored a decisive victory over Cotton Bowl champion Boston College for their 25th straight win. The growing success of the program, and increased national exposure brought well deserved recognition to BYU athletes. In 1986, defensive lineman Jason Buck became the first BYU player ever to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the top interior lineman in all of college football. In 1989, offensive lineman Mo Elowonibi also won the Outland Trophy. Despite BYU's amazing record of quarterbacks brought in by coach Edwards, none had ever won the Heisman Trophy. Steve Young finished second in the race in 1983 to Nebraska's Mike Rozier and Jim McMahon finished third in 1980 to Herschel Walker of Georgia In 1990, Cougar quarterback Ty Detmer set an NCAA record by passing for more than 5,000 yards. When Ty finished his BYU career, he had a amassed a total of 15,031 yards, making him college football's all-time leading passer. This record would stand until 2005, when it was broken by Hawaii's Timmy Chang. Chang's record is controversial as he needed four and a half seasons to break the record of all-time yards while Detmer set the record in only three and a half seasons. College football players are allowed 4 seasons of eligibility and Chang was awarded a fifth due to injuries.

1989 to 1996 under Edwards

Between 1989 and 1996, BYU won at least a share of the conference championship each year except 1994. In 1996 BYU produced arguably its best team ever. That team completed the longest season in modern-day college football history by playing in 15 games in one season. Starting off with a victory over Texas A&M in the Pigskin Classic, the Cougars only loss that regular season was at Washington. In 1996 the WAC expanded to a 16-team conference by adding Rice, TCU, SMU, Tulsa, San Jose State and UNLV.

After winning their division by going undefeated in conference play, the Cougars faced nationally ranked Wyoming in the first ever WAC championship game in Las Vegas. BYU defeated the Cowboys in overtime and earned a bid to play in the Cotton Bowl, in Dallas, Texas, on January 1, 1997. It was the Cougars first ever New Year's Day bowl game and their opponent was #12-ranked Kansas State of the newly formed Big 12 Conference. Although the Cougars had a high powered offense led by quarterback Steve Sarkisian, the game was a defensive struggle. Sarkisian connected with K.O. Kealaluhi for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give BYU a 19-15 lead. Kansas State, however, was driving with time winding down in the game. With less than one minute left, Cougar defensive back Omarr Morgan tipped a KSU pass to himself for an interception inside the 5-yard line, preserving the Cougar win. BYU finished 14-1 and ranked fifth in the nation. BYU's 14 wins that season was the most ever by a Division I college football team in a single season until Ohio State tied that record with a 14-0 record in 2002.

LaVell's last years

BYU returned to the WAC championship game in 1998 but lost to Air Force 20-12. In 1999 after leaving the WAC along with seven other teams to form the Mountain West Conference, the Cougars won a share of the inaugural MWC championship. Just prior to the 2000 season, Edwards announced that it would be his final year as the program's head coach. That season, the Cougars struggled and found themselves with a 4-6 record with just two games left. Prior to Edwards' final home game, against New Mexico, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that Cougar Stadium would be renamed "LaVell Edwards Stadium." [ [ BYU Football on KSL ] ] Before the game started, President Hinckley addressed the BYU players in the locker room and admonished them, "Don't muff it." The Cougars went on to dominate the Lobos 37-13. The season finale against the Utes was much more intense as the Cougars were trailing late in the 4th quarter, still deep in their own territory. On a fourth and thirteen, quarterback Brandon Doman found Jonathan Pittman on a Hail Mary pass. On the next play, Doman completed another pass to Pittman to put them in scoring position. Doman completed the comeback by running for the clinching score, winning the game 34-27, and Coach Edwards was triumphantly carried off the field.

Edwards is a legend among college football coaches, winning 257 games over a span of 29 years. Only five other head coaches have won more games. He was twice awarded with Coach of the Year awards (1979 and 1984). [] Under Edwards' leadership, the Cougars were Western Athletic/Mountain West Conference champions 20 times, had 26 winning seasons, played in 22 bowl games, and held a top-25 ranking for some portion of 22 different seasons, including 9 seasons with top-10 rankings.

The Gary Crowton era (2001-2004)

The 2001 Cougars returned several key players including quarterback Doman and running back Luke Staley. BYU ran off 12 straight wins to open the season and were ranked seventh nationally in at least one major poll, becoming the first MWC team to go undefeated in conference and won the conference championship outright. Staley, however, broke his leg in their 12th game against Mississippi State. Walking on crutches due to his broken leg, he accepted the Doak Walker award, given to the nations top running back, after compiling 1,596 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. Staley's absence proved critical as the Cougars lost their last two games including their bowl game.

The 2002 season started with a big home win, but the Cougars struggled in ways that were unheard of in the program after LaVell. A loss to Utah in the season finale marked the first losing season in 29 years. 2003 also saw BYU start the season with a win, but by the time the season was over the Cougars had suffered their second straight losing season. The Cougars were also shut out in the finale against Utah, ending their nation-leading record of consecutive games without being shut out, which dated back to 1975. In 2004, BYU opened the season with a victory at home over Notre Dame, however, the Cougars ended their season with a final record of 5-6. After leading the Cougars to their third straight losing season and posting an overall record of 26-23, Crowton resigned and became the offensive coordinator at Oregon.

The Mendenhall era (2005-present)

Bronco Mendenhall, who had been brought into the program in 2003 as defensive coordinator was named the next BYU head football coach. In his first season, Mendenhall led his team to a 6-5 regular season record. Mendenall's defensive secondary suffered badly from the suspensions in 2004 of many players that were recruited by Crowton. The weakness in the secondary proved to be a huge problem for the Cougars in several close games including a 51-50 loss to nationally ranked TCU. Nevertheless, Mendenhall did return BYU to a bowl game in his first season, and the team finished second (5-3) in the Mountain West Conference.

In 2006, the Cougars lost two early non-conference games to opponents from BCS conferences: one to Arizona on a last minute field goal and another to Boston College in double overtime. After that, the Cougars went on to run the table in their first seven conference games. In the regular season finale at Utah, BYU had already clinched the conference championship outright but faced its rival in a very hostile stadium. BYU jumped out to a 14-0 lead and was again driving until John Beck fumbled on a third-and-short play and the Cougars were forced to punt after recovering the fumble. The Utes would hold BYU's offense scoreless the rest of the first half and went into halftime down just 14-10. In the second half, Utah jumped out to a 24-14 lead, much to the surprise of almost everybody as BYU was heavily favored. BYU would finally respond in the fourth quarter, however, with Beck throwing a pair touchdown passes. Utah would score again and take a 4-point lead with just over a minute left to play. The Cougars drove down to the Utah 11 yard line with only 3.5 seconds to go in the game. The final play would take about 13 seconds before Beck, as he was getting hit, found Jonny Harline by himself catching the ball on his knees in the endzone at the opposite side of the field, giving BYU a thrilling 33-31 victory. Thus, the final play has often been referred to as the "Answered Prayer". With fans rushing and crowding the field, BYU, having seized the win, did not attempt a PAT which would have marked the score 34-31, the same score by which the Utes had defeated BYU twice in recent years.

The Cougars would then go on to dominate the Oregon Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl, 38-8. The win was the largest margin of victory for BYU in their bowl game history, and it marked BYU's first bowl win since the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day 1997, ten years earlier. The Cougars finished the year 11-2 (8-0 in conference) and ranked 15th in the nation, their first top-20 ranking since early 2002.

The Cougars started the 2007 “rebuilding” season with unproven redshirt sophomore quarterback Max Hall - who had never taken a snap in NCAA football - and a depleted defense staffed almost entirely by walk-ons. As in 2006, the team opened with two early losses to non-conference opponents. However, to fans delight the squad went on to win nine straight games to finish the season 10-2 with their second consecutive undefeated conference title. In what was once again a suspenseful game against Utah, who were riding their own nine-game winning streak, BYU seized the win with about a minute left on the game clock after Hall completed a 49 yard pass to Austin Collie from the BYU 12 on 4th and 18, which was followed by Harvey Unga running in for the winning touchdown. Collie's post-game comments, considered controversial or self-righteous by Utah fans, led the desperation play pass to be dubbed, "Magic Happens" by BYU fans. The Cougars played 6-6 UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. In another dramatic moment, BYU won the game on a last-second field goal block. They hold the nation's longest current winning streak with 15 consecutive wins; twice as many as the teams tied for 2nd. Notable recent games include a 59 - 0 Shut-out of UCLA and a 44 - 0 blowout of Wyoming, back-to-back games which were both played in LaVell Edwards Stadium.

As the defending Mountain West champions and having posted 11-2 record for each of the last two years, the Cougars find themselves to be the media darling in 2008 as dubbed the most likley BCS Buster. A few reports have gone so far to consider BYU to be a dark horse candidate, however unlikely, for the national championship game. The BYU offense, returning ten starters, is expected to be potent. The team's success in 2008 seems to be whether its new linebacker corps and particularly its fresh secondary will step up and perform as well as the last two years.

chool colors and football uniforms

From the 1970s to 1999—a period coinciding with the school's best football seasons—BYU school colors were royal blue and white. The football team generally wore royal blue jerseys and white pants at home, and white jerseys and royal blue pants on the road.

In 1999, Coach Edwards' penultimate year, the school colors switched to dark blue, white, and tan, and the football helmets switched from white to dark blue. The block 'Y' remained on the sides of the helmet but received a new, more current treatment. The home uniforms consisted of dark blue jerseys with white "bib" and dark blue pants, and the away uniforms consisted of white jerseys with white pants. These new uniforms were disliked by both the conservative fans in Provo and the NCAA, who required the team to remove the white bib on the front of the blue home jersey in 2000 (NCAA rules require that a team's jersey have a single dominant color). The home jersey thereafter was modified with blue replacing the white on the bib area.

These uniforms lasted until 2004, when a uniform new style incorporating New York Jets-style shoulder stripes was introduced (the helmets remained the same). The new uniforms were worn in a "mix-and-match" strategy—e.g., the home blue jerseys were worn with either blue or white pants and the white away jerseys were worn with either blue or white pants. This uniform incarnation lasted for only one season.

Ultimately, the traditional design with the white helmet and former logo was re-introduced for the 2005 season. While the uniforms were also changed to be similar to the 1980s uniforms, the darker blue remained instead of the former royal blue, but all tan highlights were eliminated. This change was done at the insistence of new head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who wanted to return the team to the successful traditions of the 1980s. Normally, it takes a minimum of 1-2 years to create, design and approve a uniform change. When Nike, the team's uniform supplier, said that they could not possibly make the change in just five months, former head coach and BYU legend LaVell Edwards made a call to Nike and asked them to help the new Cougar coach. Edwards had worked with Nike on several occasions since his retirement, and with the legendary coach's weight behind the request, BYU was able to take the field in 2005 in new, traditional uniforms. [Hale, Val (April 2, 2005). "Another Victory for LaVell". "Daily Herald".]

Bowl games

BYU has made 26 Bowl appearances, winning 9, losing 16, and tying 1. They have played in the Holiday Bowl (4 wins, 6 losses, 1 tie), the Cotton Bowl (1 win), the Las Vegas Bowl (2 wins, 1 loss), the Copper Bowl (1 win), the Tangerine/Citrus Bowl (2 losses), the Freedom Bowl (1 win, 1 loss), the Liberty Bowl (2 losses), the Aloha Bowl (1 loss), the Fiesta Bowl (1 loss), the Motor City Bowl (1 loss), and the All-American Bowl (1 loss).

Rankings - top 25 finishes

National Championship

In 1984, BYU's football team was declared NCAA Division I-A national champions. At the end of the season, the team had the number one ranking in the AP, UPI, and other polls, making them the consensus' choice. The undefeated Cougars (12-0-0) beat the Michigan Wolverines (6-5-0) 24-17 in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on December 21, marking the only time a national champion played in (and won) a bowl game before New Year's Day. It was also the only time since the inception of the AP poll that a team was awarded the national title without beating an opponent ranked in the top 25 at the season's end. This fact added to the controversy of BYU being awarded the national championship as opposed to teams who had defeated ranked opponents. It should be noted that the Cougars opened the season with a 20-14 victory over Pitt, ranked #3 in the nation at the time. Also, Michigan had been ranked as high as #2 at one point during the season.

Fresh off the 1984 national championship, the BYU beat defending Cotton Bowl champions Boston College in the 1985 season opening Kickoff Classic game after Oklahoma turned down the chance to play BYU in that game. BYU then played and beat the University of Washington 31-3 a few games into the 1985 season, though that Husky team notably graduated 17 starters from the one-loss 1984 team.


Heisman Trophy

In 1990, quarterback Ty Detmer won college football's most prestigious individual award, the Heisman Trophy. Detmer is the only BYU football player ever to win the award. Detmer passed for 5,188 yards and 41 touchdowns during the 1990 season, with 28 interceptions. During the same season, he also led BYU to defeat the number-one-ranked Miami Hurricanes 28-21 in Provo. The Heisman Trophy has been awarded every year since 1935. Other BYU quarterbacks finishing in the top five in Heisman voting include Marc Wilson (3rd in 1979), Jim McMahon (5th in 1980, 3rd in 1981), Steve Young (2nd in 1983), Robbie Bosco (3rd in 1984 and 1985), and Ty Detmer (Winner in 1990, 3rd in 1991).

The Doak Walker Award

The Doak Walker Award has honored the nation's best running back since 1990. BYU running back Luke Staley won this award in 2001 while helping the Cougars win their first 12 games in a row before becoming injured. Staley rushed for 1,596 yards and 24 touchdowns in just 11 games. There has been some speculation that this was only awarded to minimize the contention created by BYU supporters that they were being left out of a BCS bowl that year even when currently undefeated. Unfortunately, BYU lost their last regular season game to Hawaii as well as their bowl game after Staley suffered a broken leg during the fourth quarter of the Cougar's victory at Mississippi State.

The Davey O'Brien Award

The Davey O'Brien Award has honored the nation's best quarterback since 1981. BYU quarterbacks have won the award four times—more than any other school. Former NFL greats Jim McMahon and Steve Young both won the award while at BYU, and in 1991, Ty Detmer became the first of only three quarterbacks to win the award twice.

The Outland Trophy

The Outland Trophy has honored the nation's best interior lineman since 1946. Two BYU linemen have won the prestigious award. In 1986, Jason Buck earned the honor while Mohammed Elowonibi received the honor in 1989. Other notable players who have won the Outland Trophy include Bruce Smith of Virginia Tech in 1984, former NFL draft #1 pick Steve Emtman of Washington in 1991 and Orlando Pace of Ohio St. in 1996.

Sammy Baugh Trophy

The Sammy Baugh Trophy is awarded to the nation's best passer. Steve Sarkisian was awarded this trophy for the 1996 season during which he had a 173.6 passer rating, the highest in the nation. Other BYU quarterbacks to win the award were Gary Sheide (1974), Marc Wilson (1979), Jim McMahon (1981), Steve Young (1983), Robbie Bosco (1984), and Ty Detmer (1991).

Coaching awards

*Amos Alonzo Stagg Award:LaVell Edwards - 2003
*AFCA (Kodak) Coach of the Year Award:LaVell Edwards - 1984
*Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award [ [ Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Foundation ] ] :LaVell Edwards - 1979

College Football Hall of Fame inductees

*Gifford Nielsen (QB), 1994
*Marc Wilson (QB), 1996
*Jim McMahon (QB), 1999
*Steve Young (QB), 2001
*LaVell Edwards (Head Coach), 2004


As of 2008, BYU has produced 146 professional football players—its alumni totaling 48 NFL Super Bowl. [cite web | url = | title = BYU Football – In the Pros| publisher = BYU Athletics | accessdate = 2008-05-10 ]

=Rivalry games=

*The Holy War - Utah Utes
*The Old Wagon Wheel - Utah State Aggies
*The Beehive Boot - Best of Utah

ee also

*2006 BYU Cougars football team
*2007 BYU Cougars football team
*2008 BYU Cougars football team


External links

* [ "BYU Cougars Football Official Site"]
* [ " - BYU Sports Coverage"]
* [ "True Cougars Bleed Blue"]
* [ "KSL BYU Sports News"]
* [ "BYU historical stats at College Football Data Warehouse"]

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