DALLAS — Lance Reynolds slowly walked off the field at Ford Stadium after BYU's 24-21 win over Tulsa in the Bell Helicopter Armed Service Bowl. It appeared he was soaking in every minute he could as he left the field.
I caught up with him before he shook hands with University president Cecil O. Samuelson and right before he met with his son, left tackle Matt Reynolds, whose helmet-less block helped set up BYU's first touchdown and made SportsCenter as the No. 5 play of the day.
I asked Lance Reynolds to put the win and the Cougars' 10-3 season in perspective.
He kept it simple. "Winning 10 games is a very hard thing to do. It is a great accomplishment for any football team."
Reynolds is the only member of BYU's football staff who was around when the Cougars first finished a season with a double-digit win campaign in 1979. That was the year the Cougars finished 11-1 with Marc Wilson at quarterback. Reynolds was a graduate assistant on LaVell Edwards' staff that year, and if not for a missed field goal in the final seconds of the Holiday Bowl against Indiana, the season would have ended 12-0.
Since that time, BYU has experienced 15 seasons with 10 or more wins, five of those in the last six years.
True, many of those seasons have been against less-than-stellar competition in the WAC and Mountain West, and this first season of independence wasn't against top-tier foes either. But no other team in those leagues ever experienced that kind of success the past 30 years against the same schedules.
And yes, it is a no-brainer and should go without saying, it would be very tough for teams in the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC or Pac-12 to achieve double-digit-win seasons all the time. Nine wins means great success in those leagues, 10 or 11 is national title material.
In this region, the only team that can make a fail-safe case for playing in this kind of playpen — winning consistently — is Boise State, the NCAA's most successful football program from 2008-11 with a 50-3 record.
Only Boise State, BYU, Ohio State, Alabama and Auburn have won 14 games in a season, with the Cougars doing so in 1996 at 14-1.
In the latest Associated Press top-25 poll, 18 teams had 10 or more wins this season.
"It's a good jumping spot for us to begin next year," Reynolds said of the 10-3 campaign.
It would have been much better if the Cougars had won the 50-50 chance games that turned into their three losses.
"Ten wins is a big deal and when you go back and look at it," Reynolds said. "Not many teams finish with 10 wins in a season across the country, it's always hard to get, it's a good year and we're way happy with it."
Reynolds said there are a lot of stats thrown around about Bronco Mendenhall and the number of 10-win seasons and those are numbers, but the fact is 10 wins is tough to do.
"This is especially pleasing because we didn't start well, especially with the quarterback thing and so this is a really nice ending to what began in a very tough way. Our kids played well, they played hard and they are happy with their season, as they should be."
Reynolds likes the idea BYU returns the key three players who turned in big plays in the Armed Forces Bowl last Friday — Kyle Van Noy, Cody Hoffman and Riley Nelson.
Says Reynolds, "Kyle Van Noy is a special guy with a great future ahead of him. He's been making plays all year and he's only going to keep improving.
"Cody Hoffman has an unlimited future. He makes it look easy at times and he plays so well and is getting better all the time.
"What Riley has is running back skills. We've had running backs play for us that weren't that fast but they have feet and feel; they can make plays. He makes plays; he makes people miss and he's very aggressive to go vertical down field. He's tough running the ball. When he brings it down and decides to go, he's tough."
BYU begins offseason workouts this week after winter semester begins.