BYU’s Bowl History Includes Plenty Of Amazing Comebacks

Dec 17, 2018, 6:47 PM | Updated: Dec 18, 2018, 4:26 pm
Cody Hoffman #2 celebrates his game winning touchdown with Braden Hansen #76 and Bryan Kariya #33 o...
Cody Hoffman #2 celebrates his game winning touchdown with Braden Hansen #76 and Bryan Kariya #33 of the Brigham Young Cougars during the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on December 30, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – The BYU Cougars have a rich tradition of postseason football play. In 35 total bowl appearances, the Cougars hold a 14-20-1 record and have played in some of the best games college football has ever seen.

In anticipation of BYU’s upcoming appearance in the 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Western Michigan, KSL Sports took a look at some of the best games and most epic comebacks in BYU bowl history.

1980 Holiday Bowl: BYU 46, SMU 45

The Cougars earned their first bowl victory in program history with the 1980 Holiday Bowl, and they did it in dramatic fashion.

“I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it, but yet, I saw it!”

Trailing SMU 45-25 with four minutes remaining in the game, the Cougars mounted one of the greatest comebacks in college football history, scoring three straight touchdowns to take the lead with no time remaining on the clock.

BYU quarterback Jim McMahon threw for 446 yards on 32-of-49 attempts and was the engineer of the Cougars’ historic comeback.

The climax of the comeback game as the clock ran out when McMahon connected with Clay Brown on a 41-yard Hail Mary pass to tie the game up at 45-45. After the extra point was made, Cougar fans stormed the field in San Diego to celebrate the amazing victory.

1983 Holiday Bowl: BYU 21, Missouri 17

As was the case for many of BYU’s appearances in the Holiday Bowl in the 1980s, the 1983 edition against Missouri was a thriller.

Trailing 17-14 with about four minutes remaining in the game, the BYU defense mounted a goal line stop to give the Cougars the ball back around their own five yard line.

“Young catches the ball. They might… they do score!”

Quarterback Steve Young led the offense down the field and reeled in a 15-yard pass from running back Eddie Stinnett with 23 seconds remaining to take the field at 21-17.

It was the third touchdown responsible by Young in the game. He also finished with 328 yards through the air.

1984 Holiday Bowl: BYU 24, Michigan 17

Coming into the 1984 Holiday Bowl, BYU had a lot on the line. Ranked No. 1 in the country, a win over Michigan would secure a national championship claim for the Cougars.

With the scored tied at 17-all, Robbie Bosco tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kelly Smith to take a 24-17 Cougar lead with 1:23 remaining. Just two plays later, Marv Allen intercepted a Michigan pass to seal the win and secure the title for the Cougars.

1988 Freedom Bowl: BYU 20, Colorado 17

Four years later, in the 1988 Freedom Bowl in Anaheim, Calif., BYU again won its bowl game in dramatic fashion.

With Colorado up 17-14 early in the fourth quarter, the Cougars took their ball all the way from their own four yard line down to the Buffaloes’ 14 yard line to kick a game-tying field goal with 4:11 left.

On Colorado’s next possession, Scott Peterson came up with a huge interception to set up another field goal, this one to take a 20-17 lead with 2:33 left. BYU then held on for the victory as backup quarterback and future Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer took home MVP honors.

1997 Cotton Bowl: BYU 19, Kansas State 15

The Cougars capped off one of their best seasons since the ’84 championship year with a victory in the 1997 Cotton Bowl. Against No. 14 Kansas State, the No. 5-ranked Cougars mounted yet another late comeback to take the bowl hardware back to Provo.

Quarterback and co-MVP Steve Sarkisian engineered two key fourth-quarter drives to secure the win for BYU.

Kansas State threatened to retake the lead late in the game but a red zone interception by Omarr Morgan secured the win over the Wildcats.

2007 Las Vegas Bowl: BYU 17, UCLA 16

Although historically it had been an offensive effort that had won bowl games for BYU, it was a great defensive play in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl that secured the win over UCLA.

The Bruins were set to kick a 28-yard field goal with three seconds remaining that would have given them the win. However, BYU freshman Eathyn Manumaleuna came up with a block on the kick to prevent the score and keep BYU on top.

Austin Collie was named MVP of the game after compiling 107 yards on six receptions.

2011 Armed Forces Bowl: BYU 24, Tulsa 21

The Cougars again came up with a comeback victory in the 2011 Armed Forces Bowl against Tulsa.

With 11 seconds remaining, quarterback Riley Nelson faked a spike and found a wide-open Cody Hoffman near the goal line to give BYU what would be the decisive 24-21 lead.

It was punter Riley Stephenson who shined most brightly in the game for the Cougars. He finished with eight punts for 335 yards and had seven punts inside the 20-yard line.


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BYU’s Bowl History Includes Plenty Of Amazing Comebacks