For a second consecutive season, BYU will close out a football season by tangling with a long-time rival in a bowl game.
The Cougars will face Wyoming for the first time since 2010 in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. PST (broadcast on ESPN). BYU is playing the Cowboys for the 78th time in a series that dates back to 1922. The Cougars lead the series 44-30-3 and have won seven straight games dating back to 2003.
While recent history favors BYU, there are plenty of indications that this game could be a tough one. Wyoming boasts one of the nation’s top running backs in Brian Hill. Hill, a junior, ranks 4th in the FBS in total rushing yards (1,767) and 6th in rushing yards per game (135.92).
BYU expects nothing less than an all-out battle from the Cowboys. Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake said dogfights between the two teams were the standard during his playing days.
“They’re tough,” Sitake said. “No matter who the coach was, there was just that whole feeling of toughness around the state and also that program. We’re expecting a tough, physical team to come in the San Diego area. It will be a physical game, so I think it’s a good matchup for us and will test our guys.”
“They’re tough. No matter who the coach was, there was just that whole feeling of toughness around the state and also that program. We’re expecting a tough, physical team to come in the San Diego area.” —Kalani Sitake, BYU head football coach
BYU is looking to snap a three-game losing streak in the postseason. Ironically, the Cougars’ last bowl win came in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl — a 23-6 comeback victory over San Diego State, another former conference rival.
The Cougars seem poised to end the streak behind a strong defense. BYU opponents have averaged 19.4 points per game in 2016 and the Cougars are allowing only 108.4 rushing yards per contest. They rank in the top 15 nationally in both categories.
“We’re excited and we’re ready to go,” BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum said. “We look to finish the season strong. Now it’s just being able to prepare, being able to get better, get our game plan right and our execution down so we can go to San Diego and play well.”
Here’s a look back at some of the top games and top individual performances for BYU from past games against Wyoming:
Most Memorable Victories
BYU 28, Wyoming 25 OT (1996):
The Cougars won the inaugural WAC championship game in dramatic fashion, rallying for a victory over Wyoming on a pair of Ethan Pochman field goals. No. 6 BYU jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead over the no. 20 Cowboys. Wyoming found new life when Jay Jenkins returned a fumble 25 yards for the team’s first touchdown in the third quarter.
The Cowboys eventually took a 25-20 lead on a pair of fourth quarter touchdown passes from Jeff Wallwork. Wyoming gave up a safety on a late punt, setting the stage for Pochman to force overtime with a 20-yard field goal. Cory Wedel missed a 47 yard field goal attempt on the Cowboys’ overtime possession, allowing Pochman to deliver a 32-yard game winner.
BYU 41, Wyoming 38 (1984):
After allowing just 12.8 points per game in its first five games, BYU needed a late 4th-quarter touchdown pass to survive a potent Cowboys’ offense. Wyoming totaled 478 yards and took a 38-33 lead into the fourth quarter on a 61-yard touchdown run from Kevin Lowe. BYU finally went ahead for good on a 14-yard pass from Robbie Bosco to David Mills with four minutes left.
Bosco threw for 384 yards and five touchdowns. Mills had a career-high three touchdowns and 136 yards on seven catches. Their performance allowed the Cougars to remain undefeated and eventually claim their lone national championship at the end of that season.
Top QB performance
Ty Detmer (1990)
One reason Detmer won the 1990 Heisman Trophy is that he picked apart one defense after another throughout the season. The Cowboys didn’t stand a chance against him. No. 8 BYU routed then no. 25 Wyoming behind 484 yards and two touchdowns from Detmer. He completed 70 percent of his passes and helped BYU total 679 yards and 33 first downs on offense while averaging 7.22 yards per play.
Top RB performance
Jeff Blanc (1975)
When Blanc finished his BYU career in 1976, he ranked as the school’s all-time leading rusher at the time with 2,663 total yards. His career best performance came at the expense of the Cowboys. Blanc rushed for 215 yards and three touchdowns to help BYU rally for a 33-20 victory over Wyoming in 1975. The Cougars trailed 20-13 entering the 2nd quarter before Blanc’s last two scoring runs put them ahead for good before halftime.
Top WR performance
Mark Bellini (1986)
How dominant was Bellini in BYU’s 34-22 victory over Wyoming in 1986? The senior receiver accounted for 78.3 percent of the team’s receiving yardage that day. Bellini totaled 159 yards and a touchdown on just seven catches. He set season-highs for receptions, receiving yards and yards per catch in the game. Bellini finished his BYU career ranked third all-time in receiving yardage (2,429) at the time.
Top defensive performance
Jason Buck (1985)
BYU came into its 1985 game with Wyoming in a foul mood. The Cougars suffered a stunning 23-16 upset to previously winless UTEP a week earlier. Buck led the way in taking it out on the Cowboys. The 1986 Outland Trophy winner paced a 59-0 BYU victory with four tackles, three tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. As a team, the Cougars allowed just 173 total yards and 12 first downs and recovered four fumbles.