Ranking BYU’s most remarkable bowl victories


When BYU travels to Miami to face Memphis in the Miami Beach Bowl, it will be looking to notch the program’s 14th bowl victory. Many of those games have been memorable while some of them have almost been completely forgotten. As we count down the days until Monday, Dec. 22, when we will finally get to see the Cougars play at noon, I’ve attempted to rank all of the Cougar bowl victories from least notable to most remarkable.

Let us know in the comments about your favorite BYU bowl memory.

13. 2010 New Mexico Bowl  (BYU 52, UTEP 24)

In his only bowl game start at BYU, Jake Heaps threw for 264 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Cougars to a 52–24 victory over UTEP. At the time, it appeared that this would be the launching pad for Heaps’ career, much like the 1988 Freedom Bowl was for Ty Detmer, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Heaps lost his starting position to Riley Nelson midway through the following season before transferring to Kansas.

122011 Armed Forces Bowl (BYU 24, Tulsa 21)

This game encapsulated the Riley Nelson experience. — at times exciting but ultimately frustrating. Trailing Tulsa 21–17, Nelson’s fake spike fooled Tulsa’s defense long enough for him to hit Cody Hoffman for his third touchdown of the game to give BYU the 24–21 victory over the Golden Hurricane. For the game, Hoffman finished with 122 yards and three touchdowns.

 11. 2012 Poinsettia Bowl (BYU 23, San Diego State 6)

Many Cougar fans will remember this as the night Kyle Van Noy went “beast mode.” In the game KVN blocked a punt and scored two touchdowns (one on a fumble recovery and one on an interception return) to almost singlehandedly give the Cougars the 23-6 victory over San Diego State.

10. 2006 Las Vegas Bowl (BYU 38, Oregon 8)

It had been 10 long years since BYU had tasted victory in a bowl game. The Cougars were 10-2 ranked 20th in the nation going into the game and were looking to prove they were back after a few uncharacteristic down years. After a scoreless first quarter, BYU exploded for 17 in the second en route to a 38-8 victory over Oregon. John Beck threw for 385 yards and two scores and Curtis Brown rushed for 120 yards and two more touchdowns to pace the Cougars.


9. 2009 Las Vegas Bowl (BYU 44, Oregon State 20)

In the final game of his Cougar career, quarterback Max Hall led BYU to a 44-20 blowout victory over 18th ranked Oregon State. Hall finished with 192 yards passing and three touchdowns to earn Bowl MVP honors.

8. 1988 Freedom Bowl (BYU 20, Colorado 17)

Going into the 1988 Freedom Bowl, Ty Detmer was a promising redshirt freshman quarterback. After the game, Detmer was anointed the next in the long line of great Cougar signal callers. Detmer entered the game in the second half with BYU trailing 14-7. He proceeded to lead the Cougars to 13 second-half points, including two field goals by future U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz, in the 20-17 victory.

7. 1981 Holiday Bowl (BYU 38, Washington State 36)

In the 1981 Holiday Bowl, the shoe was on the other foot and it looked as if BYU would be the victim of a miraculous comeback. The team jumped out to a 31-7 lead on Washington State before WSU scored 21 straight points to cut BYU’s lead to just three with more than a quarter to play. However, Washington State’s comeback was thwarted when Jim McMahon hit Scott Pettis for an 11-yard touchdown pass and BYU held on for a 38-36 victory.

6. 2007 Las Vegas Bowl (BYU 17, UCLA 16)

Earlier in the season, the Cougars fell to UCLA 27-17 at the Rose Bowl. So BYU entered the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl with revenge on its mind. However, late in the game it didn’t look like the Cougars were going to get it. With just three seconds left in the game and BYU leading 17-16, UCLA kicker Kai Forbath lined up for a chip shot, 28-yard field goal attempt to win the game. Earlier, Forbath had connected on a 50-yarder, so another Bruin victory seemed like a foregone conclusion. But BYU freshman defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna had other plans. Manumaleuna exploded through the UCLA line, blocking the field goal to give the Cougars the revenge they so richly deserved.

5. 1994 Copper Bowl (BYU 31, Oklahoma 6)

It had been six long years since the Cougars tasted victory in a bowl game, and John Walsh and company made sure the streak wouldn’t hit seven. Walsh finished the game with 454 yards passing and four touchdowns, and the stifling BYU defense held the Sooners to just 232 total yards in the 31–6 victory.

4. 1983 Holiday Bowl (BYU 21, Missouri 17)

BYU won the 1983 Holiday Bowl in unusual fashion, but I suppose based on the history of the Holiday Bowl up to that point it was not so unusual. Trailing 17-14 with 31 seconds remaining in the game, LaVell Edwards dug deep into his bag of tricks and dialed up a quarterback throwback pass where BYU running back Eddie Stinnett faked a sweep and hit a streaking Steve Young for a 14-yard touchdown to seal the exciting 21-17 victory.

3. 1996 Cotton Bowl (BYU 19, Kansas State 15)

The 5th ranked Cougars entered their first New Year’s Day Bowl game 13-1 and riding the nation’s longest winning streak. BYU trailed Kansas State 15-5 going into the fourth quarter before BYU All-American quarterback Steve Sarkisian hit James Dye for a 32-yard touchdown pass to pull the Cougars within one score. Sarkisian later hit K.O. Kealaluhi for a 28-yard touchdown to give the Cougars a 19-15 lead. But BYU wasn’t out of the woods yet. It took an interception by Omarr Morgan near the end zone to finally put Kansas State away.

2. 1984 Holiday Bowl (BYU 24, Michigan 17)

To cap off an undefeated season, the Cougars first had to get through Michigan in the 1984 Holiday Bowl, but that was easier said than done. Especially after BYU appeared to lose Robbie Bosco, its All-American quarterback, for part of the first half. But fate was on the Cougars’ side that night and despite trailing 17-10 in the 4th quarter, Bosco rallied the troops to 14 fourth-quarter points and a 24-17 victory. The win gave the Cougars the undefeated season that had previously escaped them and also clinched the school’s only National Championship in football.

1. 1980 Holiday Bowl (BYU 46, SMU 45)

BYU’s first bowl victory was also its most impressive. After falling behind 45-25 with just over four minutes remaining in the game, the Cougars finally woke up and mounted what might be the greatest comeback in NCAA history. The game culminated in a Hail Mary pass from Jim McMahon to Clay Brown with no time on the clock to give BYU a 1-point victory.


Jon Eyre has worked in marketing communications at a number of high tech companies in Utah Valley for the past nine years. He is a 2003 graduate of BYU, and worked as a graduate assistant for the school's Sports Information Department for the 2003 and 2004 football seasons. When he isn't working, Jon spends his time scouring the internet searching for obscure indie bands, trying to decipher the meaning of Lost, or hanging out with his wife and three children.

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