BYU football: Cougar bowl retrospective

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

On third down, with the ball at the Michigan 13-yard line, the play came into the huddle — "69 halfback option." The primary receiver was Smith, a Beaver native, who had already caught nine passes that night.

"Robbie scrambled and we all went to different places. It was actually a broken play," Smith recalled. "I went down the sidelines, and Bosco found me in the back of the end zone. I wasn't supposed to be there."

Smith's touchdown catch in the waning moments gave the Cougars the victory, the perfect season and its first and only national title.

Two weeks later, on Jan. 3, 1985, after the New Year's Day bowl games were completed, BYU was officially crowed national champions in the Associated Press and United Press International polls, much to the chagrin of then-Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer and broadcaster Bryant Gumbel.


Playing at the historic Cotton Bowl in Dallas, BYU found itself playing in its first New Year's Day bowl game in front of 71,000 fans, about 40,000 of whom were clad in Kansas State-purple. But probably even more people cheered against the Cougars that day — including the Bowl Alliance, the precursor of the Bowl Championship Series.

The Bowl Alliance snubbed BYU despite its 13 wins, No. 5 ranking, a stifling defense and a powerful offense. The snub cost BYU an $8 million payday at the Fiesta Bowl (instead, the Cougars earned a $2 million payout from the Cotton Bowl).

If it wasn't enough of a slap in the face to be rejected by the Fiesta Bowl, the Kansas State Wildcats showed disrespect for BYU all week long during Cotton Bowl festivities. They wouldn't talk or shake hands with Cougar players. They saved their talking for the field, where they belittled BYU and its conference, the WAC.

The Cougars, meanwhile, let their play speak for them, registering a dramatic 19-15 victory over the Wildcats.

It was a contest that featured a safety by BYU and a 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass by K-State on the final play of the half (ironically, BYU had scored on a 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass on the final play of the game to defeat SMU in 1980), sending the two teams into the locker room at halftime with the Wildcats ahead by the baseball-like score of 8-5.

Things didn't go much better for the Cougars in the third quarter as K-State grabbed a 15-5 advantage.

But BYU mounted a patented comeback, punctuated by quarterback Steve Sarkisian's 28-yard touchdown pass to K.O. Kealaluhi with about four minutes remaining. It was preserved by a game-saving interception by cornerback Omarr Morgan. On first-and-10 from the BYU 12-yard line, Morgan anticipated a slant pass and picked it off with 55 seconds remaining.

Not only did the triumph secure BYU's top-5 finish in the final rankings, but it also gave the Cougars a then-NCAA-record 14th win that season.


When the weather's nice in Memphis, the Liberty Bowl isn't a bad place to play. But when the weather's bad, you'd better bundle up. That humidity, as they say, will go right through you.

The Cougars went to the Liberty Bowl twice in four years, but you couldn't blame the cold weather for BYU's poor showing in both games.

In their first trip to Memphis, the Cougars were waxed 41-27 by No. 10 Tulane, a team with an undefeated record and seeking some respect. In the hometown of Elvis Presley ("The King"), the Green Wave rolled by the Cougars thanks in large part to the performance of quarterback Shaun King. If not for a 21-point outburst in the fourth quarter by BYU, the loss would have been much, much worse.

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