BYU football: Cougar bowl retrospective

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 19 2012 8:30 a.m. MST

The post script of this story: Reynolds' helmetless block prompted the NCAA to create a new piece of legislation, a rule that states that a player can no longer participate in a play if he loses his helmet.


Two years ago, 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 of 2011, Heaps announced was transferring from BYU. After redshirting at Kansas this season, he will be eligible to play for the Jayhawks next fall.

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 BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall about the dichotomy of BYU — owned and operated by the LDS Church — making an annual tradition of playing bowl games in Sin City.

"It's an interesting thing, especially considering that last year's game had the highest attendance of any (team) sporting event in the history of the state and it's an LDS school," Mendenhall replied. "It's a fan base that doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't gamble, at least isn't supposed to. I'm not sure how excited Las Vegas is to have us, knowing we're probably not generating a lot of income for them, other than on game day, we're having a sell-out. Which is what the bowl game is for, from my understanding."

In retrospect, it's somewhat amazing to think that prior to 2005, BYU had never played in the Las Vegas Bowl before making five consecutive trips there as the Mountain West Conference representative.

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