2013 was an exciting year for BYU sports fans, as four student-athletes went pro, two teams played for national titles and one championship and Cougar fans enjoyed their fair share of memorable plays. Here are some of the top BYU sports stories of the year:
Rugby wins national championship … again
The BYU rugby team established itself as a perennial powerhouse when it took home its second straight national championship in May — its third in five years. The Cougars didn’t experience their usual dominance during the regular season, losing two games when they have generally gone undefeated. But the 9–2 regular season record allowed them to make the tournament, where they caught momentum and captured another title with a nailbiter of a championship game over California 27–24.
BYU featured four All-Americans on the team in Ryan Roundy, Kyle Sumison, Paul Lasike and Seki Kofe. Only Sumison will return for the 2014 team, as Roundy and Kofe graduated, while Lasike has turned his attention to the BYU football team.
Men’s volleyball runners-up in national championship game
The BYU men’s volleyball team showed its national ranking during 2013, advancing all the way to the NCAA Championship game before falling to UC-Irvine. The Cougars used the talents of first team All-Americans Taylor Sander and Ben Patch, along with second teamer Russ Lavaja, to win games and advance in the tournament. UC-Irvine, which knew the Cougars well from two previous matches in the regular season, finally captured a victory when it counted. The Cougars won the two regular season matches but couldn’t pull off the hat trick, losing in the championship game.
Sander returns for his senior season with the Cougars for the 2014 year, while Patch left on his LDS mission and Lavaja graduated.
Former Cougars turn pro
Four players who competed for BYU in three different sports this year are now playing for professional teams, continuing the dreams of so many before them and giving hope to those who follow in their footsteps.
Ezekiel Ansah arguably had the best story in college football during the 2012 season. The Ghana native had never even seen a game of American football until he arrived in Provo for his freshman year at BYU. After learning how to put on his pads and understanding his role on the team, Ansah took off during his senior year, displaying his raw athleticism and talent for all to see. He tallied 13 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 9 pass break ups, a forced fumble and an interception.
NFL scouts took notice, and after a dominating performance in the senior bowl, the Detroit Lions drafted Ansah as the fifth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. During his rookie year, Ansah has recorded seven sacks and two forced fumbles.
Brandon Davies had an impressive senior year for the Cougar basketball team, averaging 17.7 points and 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. The 6–10 forward impressed NBA scouts with his footwork in the post, as he routinely maneuvered himself to get to the hoop in unique ways and improved a solid mid-range jumper.
Davies went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft, but was signed to the Los Angeles Clippers’ preseason roster. After he failed to make the final roster in L.A., he was picked up by the Philadelphia 76ers. Davies returned to the city of his birth to start his NBA career, and is now averaging 2.9 points and 2.5 rebounds in just under 13 minutes per game.
Two former BYU baseball players were also taken by Major League teams, starting with freshman sensation Jacob Hannemann. Hannemman hit five homeruns and 29 RBIs, hitting .344 during his first and only season with the Cougars. Hannemann, who also played as cornerback on the football team, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs with the second pick of the third round, making him the highest drafted player to ever come out of BYU. Hannemann played most of his rookie year with the Boise Hawks of the Short-Season Class A league, where he batted .290 with one home run and five RBIs.
Jaycob Brugman, another Cougar baseball player who led the team with 11 home runs and a .609 slugging percentage, was picked up by the Oakland Athletics in the 17th round of the draft. He played for the Vermont Lake Monsters, also of the Short-Season league, where he tallied a home run and 23 RBIs.
Hoffman and Van Noy return
When both players could have declared for the NFL Draft last year and probably would have been taken, seniors Cody Hoffman, a wide receiver; and Kyle Van Noy, a linebacker; decided to return to BYU and finish their careers in Provo before moving on to the professional leagues.
Hoffman had unfinished business to attend to, as he was on the cusp of breaking several BYU records when last season ended. This year, Hoffman has taken sole possession of three distinct milestones in the Cougar record book. Hoffman passed Dennis Pitta in receptions Oct. 19 against Houston, and then subsequently passed Austin Collie in touchdown receptions against Boise State. He then passed Collie again in receiving yards against Wisconsin. With one more game to play, he already owns each record with 248 receptions, 3,445 yards and 33 touchdown catches, respectively.
Kyle Van Noy was the only FBS player to record a statistic in every defensive category in each of the last two seasons. The almost-unheard-of achievement led to Van Noy being named a preseason All-American before this season, and he has not disappointed. He still needs a blocked kick and a fumble recovery to reach the defensive bingo for a third straight year, but he has made his trademark defensive plays in the backfield. He leads the team and is in the top 20 in the nation with 16 tackles for loss, along with four sacks, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown.
BYU football finishes 8-4, sets game and season rushing records
The Cougars managed a one-game improvement over last season despite a significantly more difficult schedule, picking up marquee wins along the way. The Cougars defeated Texas 40-21 in the second week of the season, setting a school record with 550 yards rushing against the then-15th-ranked Longhorns. BYU also defeated Boise State, the first time a school from Utah had ever defeated the Broncos. The Cougars snapped Boise State’s 50-game October winning streak in the process.
Quarterback Taysom Hill became the first BYU quarterback to pass for more than 2,500 yards and run for 1,000 yards, and Jamaal Williams also finished the season with more than 1,000 yards. As a team, the Cougars rushed for the 10th most yards in the country at 275 per game. BYU will also be competing in a bowl game for the ninth straight year, which is every season under Bronco Mendenhall.
Women’s soccer Coach Rockwood earns 300th win
After the most successful season in BYU women’s soccer history, when the Cougars advanced all the way to the Elite 8 before bowing out to eventual champion North Carolina, the Cougars returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2013. The Cougars finished 15–4–1 on the year and beat Weber State in the first round of the tournament before falling to Colorado in the second round. While this year’s finish wasn’t as deep as last year’s, BYU still landed two players on the All-WCC team — senior midfielders Cloee Colohan and Rachel Manning. Sophomore defender Paige Hunt and senior goalkeeper Erica Owens found spots on the WCC second team, while forward Ashley Hatch found made the freshman team.
Head coach Jennifer Rockwood notched her 300th career win against San Francisco. Rockwood just finished her 19th year of coaching the Cougars and is in an elite group of coaches who have won 300 games. Not even legendary football coach LaVell Edwards reached the 300-win mark, finishing his career with 257 wins.
Men’s cross country team places fourth at nationals
Another year, another season of dominance for the men’s cross country team. The Cougars notched a fourth-place finish at the NCAA championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on the strength of Tylor Thatcher’s 21st-place finish. Jared Ward, who had been ruled ineligible by the NCAA for most of the season, took 36th overall in just his second race since being reinstated. Both Thatcher and Ward are seniors, but the team is also expected to compete on the national stage again next season. The Cougars have become an established powerhouse, with top 10 finishes in each of the past three years.
Men’s basketball makes the best of bad situation, advances to NIT semifinals
The men’s basketball team finished with a 21-10 regular season record in 2012–2013, but failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. The Cougars made the best out of a difficult situation, as center Brandon Davies and guard Tyler Haws led the Cougars on a run to the semifinals in the consolation NIT tournament. The Cougars played Baylor tough in Madison Square Garden as part of the NIT “Final Four” before finally bowing out.
Baseball achieves best record since 2005
Cougar baseball reached new heights under first-year coach Mike Littlewood, finishing with its best record since 2005. The Cougars’ season included major wins over ranked squads LSU, UC Irvine, Gonzaga and Arizona State. LSU was ranked No. 2 when the Cougars crushed it 9-4.
Ties between BYU, Notre Dame thicken
The football relationship between BYU and fellow independent Notre Dame took a major step forward in 2013. The Cougars played the Fighting Irish in South Bend, Ind., for the second year in a row, falling just short in bitter cold weather, 23-13. BYU safety Chris Badger transferred from Notre Dame over the summer and travelled with the team to the game. Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, a Notre Dame football legend, greeted BYU fans and players at the team’s pre-game fireside the night before. Notre Dame also hosted a panel about presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, consisting of two Mormons: Notre Dame political science professor David Campbell and Utah Valley University President Matthew Holland.