ARLINGTON, Texas — Almost 25 years ago to the day after BYU upset No. 3 Pittsburgh on the road in its season-opener, the No. 20 Cougars pulled the feat again, shocking No. 3 Oklahoma, 14-13, Saturday night before a crowd of 75,437 at Cowboys Stadium and a national television audience.
Of course, the '84 BYU team went on to post an undefeated season and win the national championship. It's way too early to know how the 2009 campaign will play out, but right now all the Cougars know is, it's one of their greatest victories ever.
It marked BYU's first triumph over a non-conference team ranked in the top 10 since a 28-21 win over Miami in 1990 in Provo.
"This is going to go be like the year we beat Miami," said quarterback Max Hall, who threw a game-winning, seven-yard touchdown pass to McKay Jacobson with 3:03 remaining. "It's one of the greatest wins in BYU history."
"BYU fans will look back on it forever," said defensive lineman Brett Denney. "A lot of people thought it was impossible for us to win this game. But our coaches helped us realize that it wasn't impossible."
Meanwhile, BYU's stunning victory put a serious crimp in Oklahoma's plans for an eighth national championship. The Cougars, who were three-touchdown underdogs, outplayed the heralded Sooners, outgaining them 357 yards to 265. BYU also limited OU to 2-for-11 on third-down conversions and held a team that averaged more than 50 points a game a year ago to a mere 13.
With injuries to star offensive players for both teams, the game became a surprising defensive struggle. Ultimately, BYU was more effective in overcoming adversity and early-season mistakes.
"I'm very excited about the win for our program and the work ethic our young men showed and the determination to play and battle through," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "It was an amazing situation in terms of the opportunity to play Oklahoma in this setting. Our intent was to play worthy of the opportunity and I believe that they did that and I'm proud of them for that."
"BYU just made plays when they needed to and I give them all respect," said Sooner defensive lineman Gerald McCoy. "Of course it hurts. Who likes to lose?"
The complexion of the game shifted when, just before the end of the half, OU quarterback Sam Bradford, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, suffered an AC joint sprain in his shoulder and sat out the rest of the game. Bradford gave way to redshirt freshman Landry Jones.
"It definitely changed things a little bit," Denney said. "But even before Bradford got hurt, we were having success."
Mendenhall called BYU's defense, which was much-maligned last season, "outstanding." It came up big time and again against Oklahoma, particularly in the fourth quarter. Early in the period, after a Hall interception, the Sooners at one point had first-and-goal at the Cougar 2-yard line.
On three straight plays, the BYU 'D' turned the Sooners away, and, after a delay of game penalty, OU had to settle for a 22-yard field goal that gave it a 10-7 advantage.
"Goal line stands are rare and difficult," Mendenhall said. "It really is about one player beating one player. Collectively, whoever has the most players trying the hardest wins, because there isn't much territory to cover. If I were to use words to describe the game, it would be grit and determination, and that comes down to that goal line stand."
After Jacobson's touchdown catch, which gave BYU its first lead of the game at 14-13, OU marched into BYU territory for the potential game-winning field goal. The Cougars forced the Sooners to attempt a 54-yarder with 1:23 left, but it fell short.
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