When was the last time BYU Football had this much on the line?
BYU Football’s matchup against No. 21 Boise State Friday night carries significant implications for the Cougars’ postseason hopes.
With a win, No. 9 BYU keeps its undefeated record intact, remains in the hunt for a New Year’s Six bowl game bid and maybe, just maybe, a shot at the College Football Playoff. With a loss, however, such postseason hopes would be all but dashed and the Cougars would likely have to settle for a lower-tier bowl.
“The entire season is Nov. 6,” Cougar sports radio broadcaster Greg Wrubell recently told BYU Sports Nation in regard to the Boise State game. “Everything is Nov. 6 right now, whether it’s fair or not. It’s all centered on that night. That becomes the biggest night for Cougar football in decades.”
Friday night’s much-anticipated matchup has caused a number of Cougar fans to wonder: “When exactly was the last time BYU had this much on the line?” As the team preps to take on the Broncos in Boise, The Daily Universe revisits four games from the past 20 years that had the power to make or break the Cougars’ football season.
BYU vs. Florida State: Sept. 19, 2009
BYU opened the 2009 campaign with a dramatic 14-13 win over No. 3 Oklahoma on national T.V. at the former Dallas Cowboys Stadium. The Cougars proceeded to thwart Tulane the following week 54-3, climbing to No. 7 in the AP Poll and setting up a massive home-opener against Florida State. A win for BYU, which was favored by a touchdown, would have given the Cougars another marquee victory over a top-ranked opponent heading into the Mountain West Conference portion of the schedule.
Unfortunately for BYU, the Seminoles proved too much to handle that day as they came out of LaVell Edwards Stadium with a blowout 54-28 win. The Cougars kept things close in the first half, finding themselves down just 20-14 in the second quarter before Florida State blew things wide open by scoring 24 unanswered points. BYU quarterback Max Hall threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns but gave up three interceptions in the defeat.
Although the loss all but smothered any chance of the Cougars crashing the BCS that year, BYU fell just one other time to TCU in an otherwise perfect season. The Cougars finished the year with wins over No. 21 Utah in the regular season finale and No. 18 Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
BYU vs. TCU: Oct. 16, 2008
Before this season, the last time BYU went 6-0 to start the year was in 2008. A high-powered offense anchored by Hall, Austin Collie, Dennis Pitta and Harvey Unga led the Cougars in outscoring their first six opponents that year 227-61. BYU sat at No. 8 in the AP Poll heading into its road showdown with No. 24 TCU, arguably the Cougars’ toughest remaining obstacle on their path to crashing the BCS.
The Horned Frogs, led by future NFL quarterback Andy Dalton, were hungry to avenge their narrow 27-22 loss to the Cougars the season prior and started the game on fire. TCU scored 23 unanswered points in the first half and tacked on a field goal in the third quarter before BYU finally got on the board. Despite throwing for 274 yards, Hall gave up two interceptions and an opening-drive fumble in the 32-7 loss. The Cougars’ BCS hopes were crushed.
BYU did go on to win four straight following the TCU loss but then fell to No. 7 Utah in the final game of the regular season and Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl.
BYU vs. Mississippi State: Dec. 1, 2001
The Cougars’ hopes for completing their first undefeated season since 1984 were well intact through the first 11 games of the 2001 campaign. BYU quarterback Brandon Doman and tailback Luke Staley helped the Cougars remain perfect through the conference portion of their schedule. No. 12 BYU was coming off a dramatic come-from-behind 24-21 win over Utah when it traveled to SEC country to take on Mississippi State in its second-to-last game of the regular season.
The Cougars opened the game with a quick touchdown before squandering three consecutive touchdowns to the Bulldogs. BYU tied things up at 21 just before the half and again at 31 at the start of the fourth quarter. After Mississippi State scored to go up 38-31, the Cougars once again tied the game at 38 with six minutes left. BYU’s defense then held the Bulldogs to a three-and-out, and the Cougar offense proceeded to march 62 yards downfield to the Mississippi State eight-yard line with just four seconds remaining. BYU’s Matt Payne nailed a 25-yard field goal as time expired, keeping the Cougars’ undefeated season and BCS aspirations alive.
Unfortunately for BYU, postgame x-rays revealed Staley had broken his leg during the Cougars’ game-winning drive, thus ending the soon-to-be Doak Walker Award winner’s season. BYU would be forced to travel to Hawaii for its final game of the regular season without its star running back. The Rainbow Warriors would go on to spoil the shorthanded Cougars’ perfect season, winning 72-45. BYU then lost to Louisville 28-10 in the Liberty Bowl.
BYU vs. UCLA: Sept. 19, 2015
Freshman quarterback sensation Tanner Mangum led the Cougars to back-to-back dramatic come-from-behind victories over Nebraska and No. 20 Boise State to start the 2015 season. BYU found itself ranked No. 19 in the AP Poll as it prepped to take on the 10th-ranked UCLA Bruins on the road. A win would have given the Cougars three marquee victories in as many games with two Power-5 teams left on the schedule and a slew of lesser opponents.
BYU led for most of the contest, going up by as many as 10, 20-10, with 13 minutes left in the game. The Cougar offense had seemingly found its rhythm while BYU’s defense picked off UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen three times in the first half. However, the Bruins finally managed to generate some offense in the fourth quarter, scoring back-to-back touchdowns to go up 24-23 with three minutes left. Mangum led the Cougars to the UCLA 42-yard line with just under a minute remaining, hoping to once again lead BYU to a last-second win. Mangum, however, threw an interception on the ensuing play, thus ending the game and the Cougars’ unbeaten record.
BYU fell in its following road matchup with Michigan before notching five straight wins. The Cougars fell to Missouri on the road later in the year and to No. 22 Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl, finishing the season with a 9-4 record.