BYU Has Seen Highs, Lows In Bowl Games As An Independent
BOISE, Idaho – Since going independent in 2011, the BYU Cougars have played in a bowl game every year with the exception of the 2017 season. In that time, the Cougars have gone 3-3 in bowl games with some thrilling finishes and dramatic defeats.
Here’s a look at BYU’s bowl history as an independent:
2016 Poinsettia Bowl: BYU 24, Wyoming 21
Led by a 210-yard rushing performance by running back Jamaal Williams, BYU won in its most recent bowl appearance, 24-21. Quarterback Tanner Mangum also threw for a touchdown and ran for another in the victory.
Behind Williams and Mangum, Cougars grinded out to a 24-7 fourth quarter lead against former Mountain West Conference foe, Wyoming, before the Cowboys mounted a near comeback in the fourth quarter.
After scoring in the third quarter, the Cowboys, led by future NFL first-round draft pick Josh Allen, scored with 2:11 remaining to bring the score to 24-21. They then got the ball pack and drove down to the BYU 32-yard line with 1:22 left in the game. The scoring threat was neutralized however, when BYU cornerback Kai Nacua picked off a pass by Allen that was heading near the goal line to essentially end the game and secure the victory for the Cougars.
The win was the first bowl game victory for BYU under head coach Kalani Sitake.
2015 Las Vegas Bowl: Utah 35, BYU 28
The first quarter of the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl couldn’t have gone worse for BYU. Against their rival, Utah, the Cougars committed five turnovers in the opening period to allow the Utes to take an early 35-0 lead.
It started when Mangum fumbled on the third play of the game to set up Utah on the BYU 25-yard line. After the Utes scored the opening touchdown, Mangum threw a pick-six on the very next play to put Utah up 14-0.
On the Cougars’ next drive, Mangum threw another interception give the Utes the ball with a just a yard to go for another score.
With Utah up already 21-0, Mangum threw ANOTHER pick-six to give Utah its fourth touchdown of the game just halfway through the first quarter.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, Squally Canada fumbled on the set possession to set Utah up again on the wrong side of the 50-yard line. The Utes punched it in a few plays later and just like that, they had a commanding 35-0 first quarter lead over the Cougars.
The Cougars did score the next 28 points to pull within a touchdown with less than four minutes remaining, but the damage had already been done as Utah held on for the win.
2014 Miami Beach Bowl: Memphis 55, BYU 48 2OT
While the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl ended in dramatic fashion, with Memphis grabbing the win in double overtime in a high-scoring affair, this game will be remembered for the ugly brawl between both teams after the game.
An interception by Memphis defensive back DaShaughn Terry sealed the win for the Tigers in the second overtime. Just moments later, the brawl was on as the benches cleared from both sidelines.
The ultimate low moment for the Cougars came near the end of the brawl when Nacua appeared to sucker punch a Memphis player in the back of the head.
“You want them to rise above that and have fantastic sportsmanship,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said after the game. “I’m sure if you go back and look, there’ll be an instance or two that ignited. Probably the majority wanted to handle it really well.”
Another future first-round draft pick quarterback, Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, totaled seven touchdowns in the game. BYU’s Christian Stewart threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns and three interceptions in the Cougars’ loss.
2013 Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington 31, BYU 16
Although Taysom Hill had a strong game with 293 yards through the air and 133 rushing yards, the Cougars struggled to find the end zone on occasion in a loss to Washington in the 2013 Fight Hunger Bowl.
It was a dramatic and emotional win for the Huskies as they were between coaches. Head coach Steve Sarkisian had left for the USC job and incoming head coach Chris Petersen had not yet arrived from Boise State. In the meantime, interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo led the way to the win over the Cougars.
The name of the game for Washington was field position as the Huskies scored one touchdown on a kickoff return and returned another kickoff to prime field position for another score.
“Taysom led our team really well,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said after the game. “He played hard, he played physical. He gave us a great chance to win the game and stay in it. I told my team I was proud of them. I liked how hard they played. Our special teams needed to execute better.”
BYU wide receiver Cody Hoffman reeled in 12 passes for 167 yards in the loss.
2012 Poinsettia Bowl: BYU 23, San Diego State 6
It appeared that neither team would crack the goal line as San Diego State led 6-3 going into the fourth quarter.
However, BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy was sensational late in the game in what was a drubbing of the Aztecs on their home field in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Van Noy scored two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put San Diego State away.
“Turnovers were huge for us,” said Van Noy, who had two of BYU’s five takeaways in the fourth quarter. “I think that when we got that first turnover, I think that changed the momentum of the game.”
Jamaal Williams also scored in the fourth quarter, his 14-yard rush into the end zone was the only offensive TD of the game.
2011 Armed Forces Bowl: BYU 24, Tulsa 21
The Cougars won their first bowl game as an independent football program in 2011 in a thrilling manner.
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson threw for three touchdowns, but it was his last one that won the game for the Cougars.
Down 21-17 with about four minutes remaining, Nelson drove the Cougars down the field to the 2-yard line. With the clock ticking down, Nelson faked a spike and found a wide-open Cody Hoffman near the goal line for the go ahead touchdown with 11 seconds remaining.
“There is a play we have, red alert, that he called on his own, which is a fake spike and then throw a touchdown, or you better throw a touchdown,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said, smiling. “To have a quarterback in that situation fake spike it on his own and throw a touchdown and be on the same page with the receiver, that’s the kind of magic of the guys that I get to coach.”
For the game, Hoffman finished with 122 yards and all three BYU touchdowns in the victory.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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