Biggest Wins, Worst Losses: BYU’s First 100 Independent Football Games

Nov 6, 2018, 4:03 PM | Updated: Nov 7, 2018, 3:11 pm
AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 6: Taysom Hill #4 of the BYU Cougars reaches the end zone to score his secon...
AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 6: Taysom Hill #4 of the BYU Cougars reaches the end zone to score his second touchdown against the Texas Longhorns on September 6, 2014 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After BYU’s 21-16 loss to Boise State last Saturday, the football program has now eclipsed the century mark for games played as an independent program. Beginning with the 2011 season, the Cougars hold a 60-40 record as a conference-free team.

The decision to go and stay independent has been controversial for many. Yet in a roundtable discussion with BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe in January, he made it clear that the program has no plans to join a conference at this time.

“You can ask me that question a thousand times, and that answer is going to be, ‘if that day comes, you are going to know it,’” Holmoe said. “It is the same answer I have always said: We are not looking right now to get into another league.”

That said, here’s a look at the best wins and the worst losses in  BYU’s 100 games as an independent football program:

Best Wins

2018: BYU 24, No. 6 Wisconsin 21

The best win of BYU’s independent era came earlier this season when the Cougars knocked off Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison Wisc. The Badgers were the No. 6 ranked team in the country going into the matchup. It turned out to be BYU’s first win over a top-10 team since 2009.

Squally Canada rushed for two touchdowns and Tanner Mangum played well enough to snap Wisconsin’s 41-game nonconference winning streak.

2016: BYU 31, Michigan State 14

Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams combined forces to beat the Spartans in East Lansing. The Cougars outscored Michigan State 21-7 in the fourth quarter to hand the Spartans their third straight loss. Williams rushed for 163 yards and a pair of scores. Hill contributed a pair of TDs as well, one through the air and one on the ground in the victory.

2015: BYU 35, No. 20 Boise State 24

The Cougars put up 21 points in the fourth quarter to defeat No. 20 ranked Boise State at home. Tanner Mangum threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, both to Mitchell Juergens. The two connected for an 84-yard score late in the game to secure the win for BYU. Kai Nacua was responsible for three interceptions on defense, including one that he returned 50 yards for touchdown to ice the win.

2014: BYU 41, Texas 7

Led by Tayson Hill, the Cougars smashed Texas for the second straight year. Hill was a menace on the ground, rushing for 99 yards and three touchdowns, including one where he made an incredible hurdle over a defender on his way to the end zone. BYU racked up a total of 429 yards while holding the Longhorns to 258 yards gained. The Cougar defense also forced Texas into four turnovers in the win.

2013: BYU 37, Boise State 20

Taysom Hill had one of his most productive games ever as a Cougar in the 37-20 win over Boise State in Provo. He threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns through the air and ran for 69 yards and another score on the ground. Jamaal Williams also contributed 107 yards on the ground to hand future NFL star Jay Ajayi and the Broncos their first loss in October since 2001.

2013: BYU 40, No. 15 Texas 21

BYU stunned No. 15 Texas by compiling a school record 550 yards on the ground in a huge win at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Taysom Hill had the second-best rushing game in school history with 259 yards on the ground to go along with three touchdowns. His thrilling touchdown run of 68 yards was the longest ever by a BYU quarterback. The game was delayed for a couple hours due to lightning before the Cougars began their big night over the Longhorns.

Worst Losses

2018: NIU 7, BYU 6

Northern Illinois scored a touchdown on the opening drive and held on to beat BYU in an ugly game in Provo. BYU kicker Skyler Southham kicked a pair of field goals in the loss and had a change to give the Cougars the lead with a 51-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for BYU, the kick was missed and the Cougars never had another chance at scoring in the loss.

2017: East Carolina 33, BYU 17

Before he was the starting quarterback at Washington State, Gardner Minshew was the backup quarterback at East Carolina. He came into the game against BYU and threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes to propel the Pirates past BYU and hand the Cougars their seventh straight loss on the season. Tanner Mangum played well in the loss, completing 26-of-41 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns.

2015: Michigan 31, No. 22 BYU 0

Coming into the game against Michigan, BYU was ranked 22nd in the country. By the end of the game, the Cougars had been blanked for the first time since 2003 and given Michigan their first win over a ranked opponent in two years. Tanner Mangum had a poor outing, accounting for just 55 yards through the air. The rushing committee didn’t fare much better, racking up just 50 yards as a unit in the shutout loss.

2014: Memphis 55, BYU 48 2OT

It wasn’t enough that BYU lost the Miami Beach Bowl against Memphis in double overtime. To add insult to injury, the Cougars were also involved in a ugly brawl at the game’s conclusion. It was unclear how the brawl begin, but BYU cornerback Kai Nacua’s sucker punch to the head of a Memphis player was a bad look for the program.  Memphis QB Paxton Lynch was responsible for seven touchdown, four by the air and three on the ground in the bowl victory.

2014: Utah State 35, No. 18 BYU 20

Taysom Hill suffered a season-ending injury in No. 18 BYU’s loss to in-state rival Utah State. The Aggies were also lamenting the loss of quarterback Chuckie Keeton, but backup Darell Garretson played a great game in the win. He completed 19-of-25 attempts for 321 yards and three touchdowns. Christian Stewart, who entered the game in replacement for Hill, did not play well in his turn to play. He managed just 172 yards and tossed three interceptions in the crushing loss for BYU.

2012: No. 10 Oregon State 42, BYU 24

In his first collegiate start, Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz looked like a star, passing for 332 yards and three touchdowns against a BYU defense that had been playing pretty well until that point. BYU signal caller Riley Nelson threw three inceptions, including one that went back the other way for a touchdown in the loss. Jamaal Williams was bottled up for just 36 yards on the ground, although he did find the end zone twice.

2011: Utah 54, BYU 10

It was a night to forget for BYU and its fans as the Utes rolled to a big early season win over the Cougars in Provo. John White rushed for three scores and Jordan Wynn passed for two more in the lopsided victory. Utah forced BYU into seven turnovers in the first game between the two as non-conference opponents in 113 years.

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Biggest Wins, Worst Losses: BYU’s First 100 Independent Football Games