The Best Matchups From BYU Football’s Independence Era

Jun 2, 2022, 2:04 PM | Updated: Jun 3, 2022, 4:08 pm
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (Courtesy of BYU Photo)
(Courtesy of BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – BYU left the Mountain West Conference in 2010, setting itself up for an Independent stint. With BYU’s acceptance into the BIG 12 conference, the BYU Independence Era will be capped off at 12 years.

At this point in the Independence Era, BYU Football is 91-51. The team’s best record since going Independent was 2020’s 11-1 season which ended with a Boca Raton Bowl win. The Independence Era will end with over 150 games played. In those games, some iconic matchups stand out from the rest.

The top 5 matchups from BYU Football’s Independence Era

5) 2011 BYU @ Ole Miss

Final Score: 14-13 Attendance: 55,124

The first game of BYU Football’s Independence Era. This BYU team, led by NFL talents Kyle Van Noy and Daniel Sorenson, finished 10-3 in their first season apart from the Mountain West Conference. A relatively low-scoring affair that saw BYU score all 14 of their points in the fourth quarter. This game made the list due to the competitiveness and the fourth quarter rally put on by the Cougars. The matchup also holds significance for being the first game, and first win, from the BYU Independence Era.

4) 2015 BYU @ Nebraska

Final Score: 33-28 Attendance: 89,959

Mike Riley, the Cornhusker’s new coach at the time, had his debut spoiled by a last-second Hail Mary touchdown thrown by backup quarterback Tanner Mangum. This game saw Taysom Hill lead the Cougars in passing and rushing yards before going down with a sprained foot. BYU also ended a 29-year-long streak by the Cornhuskers with this win. Before the 2015 season, Nebraska hadn’t lost a season-opener since 1985. This game made the list due to the combination of adversity and perseverance.

3) 2013 BYU @ Texas

Final Score: 40-21 Attendance: 63,197

Expectations for this matchup against Texas were very low after the disappointing season-opening loss at Virginia. Adding on to the doubt, Texas was ranked #15 at the time. BYU couldn’t get much of anything to work in the passing game, so it was their run game that led to the blowout of the Longhorns. Taysom Hill set a BYU record with 15.2 yards per rush. He had 259 total rushing yards and Jamaal Williams added 182. The Cougars had 550 rushing yards to the Longhorns’ 132. This game made the list due to BYU fighting the odds and doing whatever was necessary to pull out the win.

2) 2020 BYU @ Coastal Carolina

Final Score: 17-22 Attendance: 5,000

This Coastal Carolina matchup is the only loss on the list just like it was the only loss of the 2020 season for the Cougars. The number two matchup on this list wasn’t even supposed to happen. Coastal Carolina was scheduled to play the Liberty Flames, but the Flames had to withdraw due to complications brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. This game was then thrown together on short notice and later was coined “Mormons vs. Mullets.” Both teams entered the game undefeated and ranked. Coastal was ranked 18th. BYU was ranked 13th and were also favored to win the game by 10.5 points. This game made the list for going against expectations while remaining extremely competitive.

1) 2018 BYU @ Wisconsin

Final Score: 24-21 Attendance: 80,720

At #1 on the list, it’s unranked BYU beating #6 Wisconsin on their home field. Wisconsin had more total yards, first downs, and time of possession in this game. The longest scoring play of the game came in the second quarter on a trick play from BYU. Wide Receiver Aleva Hifo threw a 31-yard touchdown to Tight End Moroni Laulu-Pututau. Heading into the game, Wisconsin had a win probability of 93.7%. A last-minute missed field goal, by Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone, prevented this game from going into overtime. This game made the list because who doesn’t like an underdog story. Shocking 80,000 fans must feel pretty good as well. 

Mitch Harper, KSL Sports BYU Insider, went over this Top 5 segment with Matthew Baiamonte and Dallen Graff on Cougar Sports Saturday.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL NewsRadio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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The Best Matchups From BYU Football’s Independence Era