COUGAR TRACKS

Ten Best BYU Football Home Games During Independence Era

Nov 14, 2022, 10:03 PM
BYU Football, LaVell Edwards Stadium, Fans...
BYU football fans storm the field after defeating No. 9 Baylor at LaVell Edwards Stadium. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – A unique era in BYU football history is nearing its end. When BYU hosts Utah Tech at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, November 19, it will be BYU’s last home game as an FBS Independent program.

In 2023, BYU will be a member of the Big 12 Conference. When BYU declared its football independence in 2010, many people around college football thought, how will they schedule games? Who will play in Provo? At times, it has been challenging. Having nothing on the line in November hasn’t been fun for BYU.

But they still put together a lot of home games that created some excellent matchups during this decade-plus of independence.

Here are the ten best BYU football home games played at LaVell Edwards Stadium during the Independence era (2011-22).

10. Mississippi State, 2016

October 14, 2016

BYU 28, Mississippi State 21 (2OT)

BYU’s only victory over an SEC team in Provo. Entering the game, everyone was ready to celebrate Jamaal Williams becoming the all-time leading rusher in program history. It took overtime to set the mark, so it wasn’t a celebratory moment as the nerves were tense.

In double overtime, Taysom Hill connected with Tanner Balderee to give BYU the late-night victory. BYU fans then stormed the field after defeating a 2-3 Bulldogs squad.

9. Utah State, 2011

September 30, 2011

BYU 27, Utah State 24

The game that unofficially brought to an end Jake Heaps’ tenure as QB1 at BYU. BYU’s offense was struggling, and in the fourth quarter, they were down 24-13 to rival Utah State. The Aggies could smell a second consecutive victory.

Then BYU brought in former Utah State Aggie Riley Nelson as the starting quarterback. Nelson connected on a touchdown pass with Cody Hoffman early in the fourth to make it a one-possession game. Then with 15 seconds remaining, Nelson threw a pass intended for JJ DiLuigi to the endzone. The ball was tipped by an Aggie defender and landed in the hands of tight end Marcus Mathews for the game-winning score.

8. Toledo, 2016

September 30, 2016

BYU 55, Toledo 53

No one expected a game against Toledo to be one for the record books, but this game had it all to kick off General Conference weekend. The star power in this game was excellent. BYU was led by Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams. For Toledo, the Rockets had QB Logan Woodside, who is in the NFL as a practice squad player. In that same Rocket backfield was running back Kareem Hunt.

The two teams lit up the scoreboard and racked up 1,278 yards. 286 of those yards were courtesy of a single-game rushing record set by Jamaal Williams in that game.

But ultimately, it was a 19-yard field goal kick from Rhett Almond that put this game away for BYU.

Another memorable side note to this game was ESPN analyst Mack Brown had to leave the booth early to catch a flight to the east coast for his Saturday studio work on ABC. So it left Adam Amin in the booth on his own to call the classic finish.

7. USC, 2019

September 14, 2019

BYU 30, No. 24 USC 27 (OT)

BYU, led by QB Zach Wilson, was fresh off an overtime victory to Tennessee in Knoxville. The Cougars entered the USC game as an underdog again, but they had a plan to stop the Trojans’ high-powered offense that featured star receivers Michael Pittman, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Tyler Vaughns.

BYU dropped eight into coverage and forced the Trojans to run the football. The plan worked as BYU pulled off the upset, leading to fans storming the field and feeling that Cougar Football was back.

6. Arizona State, 2021

September 18, 2021

No. 23 BYU 27, No. 19 Arizona State 17

In one of the best atmospheres at home during the Independence era, BYU knocked off a ranked Pac-12 team in as many weeks. A highlight from this game was the 16 penalties from Arizona State. Many of those yellow flags were caused by BYU’s student section, The ROC.

But the biggest memory will forever be Tyler Allgeier’s strip after ASU looked poised to run in for a pick-six.

While the student section did its job creating a hostile environment, backup QB Baylor Romney did his job as well. He was ready on a moment’s notice. Starting QB Jaren Hall cracked his ribs, and Romney stepped in to pass the game-winning touchdown to Isaac Rex.

5. Boise State, 2015

September 12, 2015

BYU 35, No. 20 Boise State 24

BYU was the talk of the nation after a week one miracle at Nebraska. Then one week later, against rival Boise State, they had another miracle brewing. BYU entered the fourth quarter down by 10, but freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum led the comeback.

With less than a minute remaining, Mangum connected with wide receiver Mitchell Juergens for a 35-yard touchdown pass that had the ESPN announcer say as Mangum passed it, “We’ve seen this before…”

Then BYU safety Kai Nacua put the exclamation point on the Broncos with a 50-yard pick-six taken back to the house. It was BYU’s first win over a nationally-ranked Boise State team.

4. Texas, 2013

September 7, 2013

BYU 40, No. 15 Texas 21

What if I told you that BYU beat a college football blueblood with a quarterback only completing nine of his 26 pass attempts? That happened on a stormy night in Provo when the Texas Longhorns rolled into town.

BYU, led by Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams, unofficially ended Mack Brown’s career as the Texas head coach with that loss. Hill ran for 259 yards and Williams piled up 182 as BYU rushed for 550 as a team with a “Go Fast, Go Hard” offense that had Texas DC Manny Diaz’s head spinning.

3. Boise State, 2019

October 19, 2019

BYU 28, No. 14 Boise State 25

The game that saved Kalani Sitake’s job. After a 2-4 start to the 2019 season that included losses to Toledo and USF, BYU had their backs against the wall. Sitake took over as the defensive play-caller and Jeff Grimes moved from the press box to field level in a wave of assignment changes.

Amid all of those changes, BYU was breaking in a new starting quarterback as Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall were out with injuries. In comes Baylor Romney to lead BYU to the upset victory over the undefeated Broncos.

2. Baylor, 2022

September 10, 2022

No. 21 BYU 26, No. 9 Baylor 20 (2OT)

The Big 12 sneak peek was an all-time win in BYU football history. After getting dominated by Baylor in Waco the previous year, BYU players circled the game against the future Big 12 foe. They delivered, handing the defending Big 12 champions a loss in double overtime.

The game was completed after midnight, so technically, BYU played on a Sunday for once. When BYU’s defense got the fourth down stop in double-overtime, fans stormed the field and celebrated the big win.

1. Utah, 2021

September 11, 2021

BYU 26, No. 21 Utah 17

After nine consecutive losses, BYU was able to take down the Utes on the gridiron. It was a win that didn’t require tricks or “specials,” what made that victory over Utah, who went on to win the Pac-12 that season, so special was that they beat Utah at their own game—playing physical at the line of scrimmage, creating takeaways, and playing assignment-sound football. Those were things BYU never did in their previous nine losses to the Utes.

It was a win that made Jaren Hall an instant legend to the Cougar faithful after only completing the fourth career start of his BYU career. In addition, the win gave BYU bragging rights until the next scheduled meeting between the two schools in 2024.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com 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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