PROVO — Among other things, BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall remembers the postgame hug he shared with his wife, the game-winning touchdown catch by McKay Jacobson, and a bus ride.
"I had never been on a bus that could drive under a stadium before," Mendenhall recalled. "That was unique."
Yes, Sept. 5, 2009, was a unique night — when the Cougars upset then-No. 3 Oklahoma, 14-13, in the first collegiate game played at the new $1.2 billion, 3-million-square-foot domed Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, before a crowd of 75,437 and a national television audience on ESPN. The improbable victory sent shockwaves through the college football world.
BYU returns to Cowboys Stadium on Friday (6 p.m., MT, ESPN) to take on TCU.
Several current Cougars played big roles in what is considered one of the biggest victories in school history. Jacobson, a Dallas-area native, caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Max Hall with 3:03 left in the game. Bryan Kariya, filling in for injured running back Harvey Unga, had a career day, rushing for 52 yards and catching four passes for 76 yards. Linebacker Jordan Pendleton was part of a stellar defensive effort, including a crucial fourth-quarter, goal-line stand.
"They had seven plays down by the goal line and we were able to stop them," Pendleton remembered. "That was a huge game for our defense. Just to go down there and be able to beat them was a great experience. Hopefully we can go into that stadium again and have the same experience."
For quarterback Riley Nelson, that marked his first game as a Cougar. Though he didn't play, he watched Hall's performance against the Sooners from the sidelines.
"It was a battle that came down to the fourth quarter and that's what I expect Friday to be," Nelson said. "It was good to experience that two years ago because that's what Friday night is going to look a lot like."
For BYU, the victory over Oklahoma snapped a 12-game losing streak to ranked non-conference teams. And it happened against a Sooner team that had averaged 51 points per game the previous year, was a national championship contender, and boasted reigning Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Sam Bradford, who ended up as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
Former Cougar linebacker Coleby Clawson knocked Bradford out of the game just before halftime. Bradford suffered an AC joint sprain in his shoulder and was sidelined for the rest of the game. Bradford gave way to redshirt freshman Landry Jones, who now starts for the Sooners.
Oklahoma led, 10-7, at that point and as BYU players ran off the field to go to the locker room at intermission, ESPN cameras caught Hall confidently yelling to Cougar fans, "We're going to win!"
"We all had that mindset in that game," recalled center Terence Brown. "We felt like we had some momentum and we felt like we were in the game. When it came down to it, we felt like we were going to make one more play than they did ... I remember it was a fight. I remember the locker room after the game and how gratifying it was to go down there and get a win against a top-5 team. We came together as a team and played hard."
Jacobson, who had fumbled a punt earlier in the game, became one of the heroes when he caught a seven-yard TD pass from Hall in the waning moments to put the Cougars on top for good.
"Most importantly we got the win," said Jacobson, who was playing in his first game after returning from an LDS Church mission. "The stadium itself is quite a thing. We're going down there to win a game. I'm excited to go back to my hometown and all of that stuff, but at the end of the day, we're going to play a game. ... We've got to take that same focus."
The Cougars are looking forward to returning to Cowboys Stadium, a venue that is referred to as the "Taj Mahal" of sports facilities. Cowboys Stadium features a mammoth center-hung HD-videoboard that is 160 feet long, 72 feet high and cost $40 million.
"It can be kind of distracting," linebacker Jameson Frazier said of the videoboard. He admitted "peeking" at the huge screen during warmups.
"But when you're playing a team like Oklahoma, you have to focus on the opponent," Frazier said. "It's a really fun place to play. If you've been there, you understand what type of place it is. It's an amazing feeling."
The Cougars are hoping for another amazing feeling on Friday against TCU.
Cougars on the air
BYU (6-2) vs. TCU (5-2)
Friday, 6 p.m. MT
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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