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BYU Cougars: Top 10 Moments Of The Decade

Photos Courtesy of Getty Images

PROVO, Utah – The 2010s were a decade that featured some wild twists and turns in the world of BYU sports.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and highlight some of the great moments that took place in BYU football and men’s basketball over the past decade.

From incredible football wins to some of the nation’s best players, BYU sports had a little bit of everything last 10 years.

10. Overtime wins against Tennessee and USC in back-to-back weeks

BYU’s 2019 football season began with so much progress as the Cougars defeating two historic college football programs in back-to-back weeks. The Cougars defeated Tennessee in overtime by a score of 29-26 and then another overtime win against USC in Provo.

Tennessee and USC are both 12th all-time for most wins in college football history. For BYU to get wins against those programs in back-to-back weeks was pretty special.

9. Kyle Van Noy dominates in Poinsettia Bowl

To find the insignificant Poinsettia Bowl on this list, something special had to happen. Insert Kyle Van Noy.

Van Noy had one of the greatest individual performances you’ll find from a defensive player probably in all of college football the past decade.

With BYU down 6-3 heading into the fourth quarter against San Diego State, Van Noy led BYU to victory forcing a fumble that he recovered in the endzone. Then later in the quarter, Van Noy had a 17-yard pick-six to seal the 23-6 win over the Aztecs.

On the night, Van Noy ended up with eight tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. A memorable performance from the best defensive player out of BYU the past decade.

8. Win at No. 6 Wisconsin

BYU entered Madison, Wisconsin as a 21.5-point underdog against the No. 6 Badgers and the Cougars pulled off the unthinkable.

Wisconsin was viewed as a potential College Football Playoff contender and BYU derailed those plans with a shocking 24-21 victory.

Badgers kicker Rafael Gaglianone missed a 41-yard field goal to give BYU the massive upset win just one year after losing to Wisconsin by 34 points.

BYU handed Wisconsin their first nonconference loss in 16 years at Camp Randall.

7. BYU pulls off biggest NCAA Tournament comeback in win over Iona

BYU’s last win in the NCAA Tournament was a memorable one. The Cougars snuck into the 2012 Tournament with an at-large bid by being placed in the First Four in Dayton against Iona as a 14-seed.

BYU was down by 25 points in the second half before Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies spearheaded the comeback as the Cougars won 78-72 in Dayton.

The win gave BYU their third consecutive season with a victory in the NCAA Tournament. BYU hasn’t won a game in the NCAA Tournament since.

6. Jamaal Williams becomes BYU’s all-time leading rusher

Jamaal Williams withdrew from BYU in 2015 for violating the school’s honor code, but came back in 2016 and became and a record-setting performer for the Cougars.

In Williams’ senior year, he became the school’s all-time leading rusher and he did it in a double-overtime win against Mississippi State from the SEC.

Williams needed 64 yards to become the school’s all-time leading rusher and he needed the extra time in overtime to set the record. The Swagdaddy rushed for 76 yards in the win to set the record. He concluded his career with 3,901 yards.

5. Miracle at Memorial: BYU at Nebraska

BYU’s range of emotions in 2015 was everywhere in the win at Nebraska in 2015. BYU lost their starting quarterback Taysom Hill in the first half with a lisfranc injury. Replacing Hill was true freshman Tanner Mangum who played in his first collegiate game and he delivered one of the best finishes in program history.

With BYU down 28-27 and only one second remaining, Mangum heaved up a hail mary from the Nebraska 42 yard-line and connected with wide receiver Mitch Mathews. 

Memorial Stadium went silent and BYU handed Nebraska their first season-opening loss since 1985.

The win instantly put Tanner Mangum in BYU lore by taking down one of college football’s greatest programs.

4. BYU spoils No. 1 Gonzaga’s undefeated season

BYU traveled to The Kennel to face 29-0 and No. 1 ranked Gonzaga to wrap up the regular season. The Cougars were an average 20-10 and had a 0.3 percent chance of taking down the Zags according to the KenPom ratings.

Then BYU pulled off the unthinkable and took down the undefeated Zags. Eric Mika led BYU with 29 points and freshman TJ Haws had 17 to give the Cougs their first win over a No. 1 ranked team in program history.

3. BYU crushes Texas in back-to-back seasons

Everything was bigger from Taysom Hill when he faced the Texas Longhorns. BYU crushed Texas in back-to-back years, once in Provo and the following year in Austin.

In 2013, on the heels of a shocking loss to Virginia, BYU thumped Texas and Taysom ran wild going off for 259 rushing yards in the 40-21 win over the No. 15 Longhorns.

As a team, BYU rushed for an unthinkable 550 yards. The win forced Texas to fire defensive coordinator Manny Diaz (now Miami’s head coach) and basically ended the incredible run the Longhorns experienced with Mack Brown as the head coach.

The following season, Texas introduced Charlie Strong as the head coach and UT were set on getting revenge against BYU. The two teams met up in Austin in week two and Taysom Hill bullied the Horns again defeating Texas 41-7.

2. BYU declares their Independence

This might be the most polarizing pick of the list, but it has to be on here. BYU could not afford to be left behind with the Non-BCS/Group of 5 programs, they had to make a move.

BYU’s Independence was officially declared in September 2010. At that time putting together schedules was a big concern, now there’s no shortage of great games on the Cougars Independent schedules.

BYU left the Mountain West Conference that it helped form in 1999, but after Utah left for the Pac-12 and TCU engaged in talks with the Big 12, BYU had to move forward.

Independence has left BYU football with mixed results, but the opportunity to play greater schedules and have games televised in front of a national audience on a weekly basis has been positive. How much longer will it remain a net positive? That’s a question for another article.

1. Jimmermania leads BYU to the Sweet 16 in 2011

Looking back, did we fully appreciate the run by BYU Basketball and Jimmer Fredette in 2011?

BYU advanced to the Sweet 16 led by Jimmer who captured the imagination of the entire country. Kevin Durant said Jimmer was the greatest scorer in the world. Chad Ochocinco was tuning in to The Mountain network to watch Jimmer play in random Mountain West Conference games. It was spectacular and Jimmer always delivered big performances in the greatest stages.

Jimmermania kicked into overdrive after Jimmer poured in 47 points against rival Utah at the Huntsman Center. From there, the nation couldn’t get enough.

If we just drilled down the top 10 BYU moments of the decade to just Jimmer moments, we probably could have done that.

Jimmer beat out Kemba Walker to win the Naismith Award, given to the best player in college basketball. He took down Kawhi Leonard and the San Diego State Aztecs on network television, he led BYU to a dominating win over an Arizona team that featured Derrick Williams, he poured in a career-high 52 points against New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.  Jimmer could do it all. Heck, people were teaching themselves how to Jimmer.

Despite losing Brandon Davies to an honor code suspension, Fredette led BYU to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1981, before seeing his season and career with the Cougars come to an end against Florida in the regional semifinals.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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