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BYU football: Cougar bowl games, then and now

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

Former BYU athletic director Glen Tuckett says the 1976 Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla., is the one bowl he remembers most because "we had to work at it to get to it."

In 1976, BYU and Wyoming had tied for the WAC crown, but the Cowboys went to the Fiesta Bowl.

"I was the new director of athletics, and I wasn't smart enough to know you could fail," Tuckett recalled. "We had to be invited and we had to do a lot of politicking. (Tangerine Bowl officials) found out how many members of the LDS Church we had down there and how many alumni were down there. I told them, 'Traditionally, we draw a lot of fans to bowl games.' I didn't tell them we had only been once before. We had a fireside at the ballpark before the game and got a lot of support from the fans there. The bowl people were tickled that we went."

So was Oklahoma State, which won the game, 49-21.

One of the few BYU highlights of the night was a kickoff returned 102 yards for a touchdown by Dave Lowry.

BOWLING FOR YEN (1977)

Before the 1977 season opened, BYU made it clear that if it won the conference championship, the school would not play in the Fiesta Bowl, which was scheduled for Christmas Day. Christmas fell on a Sunday that year.

Sure enough, the Cougars won the WAC in 1977, and they snubbed the Fiesta Bowl for religious reasons. (Years later, in 1996, the Fiesta Bowl returned the favor by snubbing the 13-1 Cougars for Bowl Alliance — precursor of the Bowl Championship Series — reasons.)

With the 1977 Fiesta Bowl out of the question, BYU had no bowl to play in. So Glen Tuckett told the Cougars to "go east, young men." To the Far East, that is, on a goodwill trip that was planned before the season.

BYU played in two games in Japan against Japanese all-star teams at the end of the '77 season in an Oriental Extravaganza called the Silk Bowl, which was an exhibition contest only.

"It was a great experience for the team, a great trip for the kids," Tuckett remembers. "You don't get to go to Tokyo very often."

And what was the quality of Japanese football? "They know the game pretty well, but they were just overmatched," Edwards said. "They were competitive little guys. The night before the game I remember thinking, 'This would really be big if we lose.'"

They didn't, of course.

The Cougars must have been a big hit in Japan. The following year, BYU defeated UNLV, 28-24, in its regular-season finale, in Yokohama.

BEATING BYU, BY GEORGE (1978, 1987)

When George Welsh coached the Naval Academy to victory over BYU in the inaugural Holiday Bowl in 1978, it was a special experience in more ways than one for him. That day, Dec. 22, happened to be his wedding anniversary.

Ironically, nine years later, to the day, on Dec. 22, 1987, Welsh, who was then the coach at the University of Virginia, met BYU in the All-America Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., and won again.

More ironic still is that in 1978, Welsh beat BYU, 23-16. In 1987, Welsh won by the almost identical score, 22-16.

Who knows if Mrs. Welsh enjoyed those two anniversaries.

Years later, though, the Cougars exacted a measure of revenge against Mr. Welsh. In 2000, Edwards' final season at the helm, the Cougars rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit to claim a 38-35 overtime victory over Welsh, who retired at the end of the season.

SHOULDA, COULDA, WOULDA, OOPS (1979, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993)

Six times in bowl games, BYU not only played well enough to win, but also should have won. In 1979, the loss came after the aforementioned missed field goal that cost the Cougars a victory. In 1985, Robbie Bosco threw a pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown — Ohio State's only TD of the game. The Buckeyes picked off two more passes in the end zone that day on their way to a 10-7 win.

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