50 wins later — looking back at Kalani Sitake’s best victories at BYU thus far

With a dramatic double overtime win over Baylor this past week, head coach Kalani Sitake earned his 50th career victory at the helm of BYU’s football program.

Sitake accomplished the feat in his seventh season at BYU and after 79 games. In comparison, the legendary LaVell Edwards — whose name now dons BYU’s stadum after winning 257 games — reached his 50th dub after 77 tries.

Sitake has said he wants his BYU program to “rhyme” with the Edwards era, and it appears that he’s on the right track. Should this pace continue, place all your bets on a national championship for the Cougars in 2028 (I’m only being slightly sarcastic here).

While Sitake will rack up plenty more victories throughout the rest of this season and beyond, let’s take a look at what I believe to be his top 10 wins thus far at BYU.

10. @ No. 21 Boise State (2020)

Dax Milne, Neil Pau’u, Zach Wilson and Gunner Romney pose for the famous “air raid” photo after BYU smoked Boise State 51-17 on Nov. 6, 2020. (BYU photo)

The 2020 Cougars were a powerhouse, and a 51-17 road smackdown of a ranked Boise State squad was their loudest such declaration. Zach Wilson accounted for four of BYU’s seven total touchdowns on the evening, with Tyler Allgeier running for an 86-yard score and Gunner Romney logging 133 receiving yards in the Cougars’ first-ever win against the Broncos in Boise.

9. Toledo (2016)

Ari Davis
Jamaal Williams celebrates after scoring one of his five touchdowns against Toledo in BYU’s 55-53 win against the Rockets on Sept. 30, 2016. (Ari Davis)

The Sitake era at BYU began a bit slower than most had hoped, narrowly edging a weak Arizona team in the 2016 opener before dropping three straight contests each by three points or less. Desperately needing a win to salvage the season, Jamaal Williams put the Cougars on his back, running wild for 286 yards and five touchdowns against a nine-win Toledo squad. The 55-53 shootout featured eight second half lead changes against the Rockets, with Rhett Almond’s last second field goal securing the win for BYU.

8. @ Utah State (2021)

Tyler Allgeier outruns Utah State defenders in BYU’s 34-20 win over the Aggies on Oct. 1, 2021. (Dallin Wilks)

Down to its third string quarterback, BYU held off a strong Aggies unit that would finish ranked No. 24 as Tyler Allgeier ran for 218 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 34-20 win amid a hostile Logan environment. Sitake began his BYU tenure just 1-9 in rivalry games, but 2021’s win over Utah State gave the Cougars their fifth straight rivalry win dating back to 2019.

7. No. 19 Arizona State (2021)

Isaac Rex catches the game-sealing touchdown for BYU against ASU. (Dallin Wilks)

In a 27-17 win, BYU slayed another ranked foe, the ROC caused four straight false start penalties against Arizona State, Baylor Romney came off the bench to throw throw a game-sealing touchdown to Isaac Rex and Ryan Rehkow booted a school record 83-yard punt. Oh, and Tyler Allgeier unleashed the “punch fumble” and became a viral sensation. This game was pure chaos— and it was glorious.

6. No. 24 USC (2019)

Dayan Ghanwoloku celebrates after recording the game-sealing interception in a 30-27 overtime victory against USC on Sept. 14, 2019. (BYU photo)

Sitake’s teams love to win games they shouldn’t, and 2019 against USC was no exception. Zach Wilson became a household name, the defense grabbed three interceptions and BYU took down another prestigious Power 5 opponent with a 30-27 overtime win over the Trojans.

5. @ Tennessee (2019)

Micah Simon races downfield on his game-saving 64-yard reception in BYU’s 29-26 win over Tennessee on Sept. 7, 2019. (BYU photo)

It’s not often that BYU travels into SEC territory, let alone pulls off a thrilling, double overtime road victory against one of the nation’s most storied programs. In search of a miracle to take down Tennessee, Zach Wilson connected with Micah Simon on a 64-yard completion that kept the Cougars alive against all odds. Jake Oldroyd nailed a field goal to push the game into overtime, where Ty’Son Williams plunged into the end zone in the second additional period to finally steal the 29-26 win for BYU.

4. No. 21 Utah (2021)

Jaren Hall eludes Utah defenders in BYU’s 26-17 win over the Utes on Sept. 11, 2021. (BYU photo)

How can you not be romantic about beating Utah? Proving the success of 2020 was no fluke, Sitake’s squad flat out embarrassed the Utes for BYU’s first “Holy War” victory since 2009 in 26-17 fashion. Jaren Hall played the game of his life, throwing three touchdowns and running for 92 yards as the Cougars dominated the line of scrimmage, excelled on third down and controlled the contest from start to finish. While maybe not Sitake’s top win on this list, the postgame hysterics against Utah would definitely place first in ranking the best postgame field invasions.

3. No. 14 Boise State (2019)

Matt Bushman, Micah Simon and Baylor Romney celebrate a touchdown in BYU’s 28-25 win over No. 12 Boise State on Oct. 19, 2019. (BYU photo)

This game deserves so much more love than it gets. Before playing Boise State in 2019, Sitake was 22-23 at BYU. Since then, BYU is 28-6, with a rainy upset over the undefeated, No. 14-ranked Broncos forever changing the trajectory of the program and likely saving Sitake’s job. Third stringer Baylor Romney made his first career start at quarterback and threw two touchdowns in the 28-25 BYU win.

2. @ No. 6 Wisconsin (2018)

BYU Photo
Squally Canada logs a carry against No. 6 Wisconsin in BYU’s 24-21 over the Badgers on Sept. 15, 2018. (BYU photo)

It’s hard to determine what’s most impressive— BYU beating the No. 6 team in the country, ending Wisconsin’s 41-game home nonconference win streak or the fact that the Cougars won with Tanner Mangum starting at quarterback (and throwing for just 89 yards!). Not only that, but BYU did it with seven freshmen starting on offense. The Cougars stormed into Camp Randall, went toe to toe with a dominant Badgers squad and, for the first time in the Sitake era, looked the part as a legitimate power program.

1. No. 9 Baylor (2022)

Keanu Hill and Chase Roberts celebrate a Roberts touchdown in BYU’s 26-20 win over No. 9 Baylor on Sept. 10, 2022. (BYU photo)

Sure, there might be some recency bias here, but BYU’s 26-20 win against Baylor last week was just ridiculous. The Cougars beat a top-10 team in Provo for the first time in 32 years, played arguably the most aggressive defense they ever had under Sitake, somehow overcame two overtimes and a pair of missed field goals, did it all without their top two receivers and against the reigning Big 12 champs who had bullied them less than a year before. Sitake’s “love and learn” program mantra was on full display against the Bears, and it bled into the box score and paid off handsomely. Additionally, this win propelled BYU into the national conversation for good, shedding “sleeper” status and cementing the Cougars as a dangerous contender capable of beating anyone.

Here’s to 50 more wins for Coach Sitake, with hopefully one of them coming in a New Year’s Six bowl this January.

Jackson Payne is the lead columnist at Daily Universe Sports. Follow him on Twitter @jackson5payne.

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