BYU football: Cougar bowl games, then and now

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 27 2011 7:00 a.m. MST

BYU's defense stops Marshawn Lynch near the end of the game, but Lynch had already torched BYU helping his team to a 35-28 victory in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, Dec. 22, 2005.

August Miller, Deseret News archives

Top 10 most memorable BYU bowl games

PROVO — When BYU squares off against Tulsa in the Dec. 30 Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas, it will mark the Cougars' 30th all-time trip to a bowl game.

Last spring, prior to BYU's inaugural season as an independent, the school entered into an agreement to participate in the Armed Forces Bowl if bowl eligible and not selected for a BCS game.

The Cougars have similar agreements with the Poinsettia Bowl in 2012 in San Diego and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2013 in San Francisco.

The Armed Forces Bowl is the 14th different bowl game BYU has played in since its first one, the Fiesta Bowl, in 1974.

The Cougars boast a colorful bowl history, featuring a bevy of memorable victories and forgettable losses. BYU owns a lackluster 11-17-1 record in bowl games, but it has won four of its last five.

Here's an in-depth look at the Cougars' bowl past.

HEAPS 'O FUN … BUT NOT FOR LONG (2010)

In BYU's most recent bowl game, last December, the Cougars kicked off the college football bowl season with a dominating 52-24 triumph over former Western Athletic Conference rival UTEP in the 2010 New Mexico Bowl.

It marked BYU's fourth bowl win in five years and secured coach Bronco Mendenhall's fifth consecutive winning season.

The Cougars were led by true freshman quarterback Jake Heaps, who earned New Mexico Bowl offensive MVP honors by completing 25-of-34 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns, and shattering Ty Detmer's freshman record for most TD passes. Heaps, who revealed after the game that he was playing with a fractured rib suffered against Utah, also set the BYU record for best completion percentage (.735) in a bowl game.

At that point, it appeared that Heaps was on the cusp of becoming the Cougars' next great quarterback.

"I think he has a very bright future," Mendenhall said after the game. "He continues to learn how to lead our team, he continues to learn what it means to be the quarterback at BYU. Now he knows what it feels like to win a bowl game at the college level. That's something a lot of first-year quarterbacks don't have the opportunity to do."

UTEP coach Mike Price, the former Weber State coach, was also impressed with Heaps. "I like him a whole lot. He didn't play like a freshman, he played like a veteran. He commanded the offense really well."

But after starting the first five games of his sophomore season, Heaps was replaced by Riley Nelson. In early December, Heaps announced he is transferring from BYU.

VIVA LAS VEGAS (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)

BYU and Las Vegas make quite the odd couple. The LDS-owned school is the perennial No. 1 stone-cold sober university in the nation. It has a stringent honor code and a football coach that emphasizes the spiritual aspects of life.

Las Vegas is nicknamed Sin City and is known for its glitz, glamor and gambling. It features The Strip, showgirls and racy billboards that can make a grown man blush.

BYU's reputation, and that of Las Vegas, clash like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Elvis impersonators. But when it comes to the Las Vegas Bowl, the two disparate entities complemented each other very well. Thanks to this annual December football game held at Sam Boyd Stadium, for five straight years, from 2005-2009, it was a place where "Come, Come Ye Saints" and "Viva Las Vegas" converged. It was no coincidence that Sam Boyd Stadium sold out those years.

A Las Vegas television personality asked Mendenhall about the dichotomy of BYU — owned and operated by the LDS Church — making an annual tradition of playing bowl games in Sin City.

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