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10. BYU 21, Notre Dame 14 (October 15, 1994)
9. BYU 31, TCU 17 (September 28, 2006)
8. BYU 70, Utah 31 (November 18, 1989)
7. BYU 18, Texas A&M 17 (September 8, 1979)
6. BYU 20, Pittsburgh 14 (September 1, 1984)
5. BYU 14, Oklahoma 13 (September 5, 2009)
Last year, BYU opened the season against the number 3 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. While defeating the number 3 ranked team is always special, this upset had an added element to it. BYU completed its return to glory from the dark years of 2002-04 at the opening of Bronco Mendenhall’s fifth season. Bowl game? Check. Conference Championship? Check. National Ranking? Check. Beat a national power? Check.
McKay Jacobson looked like he would be the goat of the game when he fumbled an early punt that led to an Oklahoma touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Jacobson became the hometown hero as he caught the game winning touchdown pass from Max Hall with 3:03 to play. Jacobson, a native of Southlake, Texas, was playing his first game since 2006 after a 2-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to Japan, and it showed as he tried to field a punt on the run in the first quarter. By the fourth quarter, he had shaken off the rust and caught the 7-yard pass from Hall as the Oklahoma defense converged on tight end Dennis Pitta and left Jacobson alone in the back of the end zone.
Never mind that 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford spent the second half on the sideline with an ice pack on his shoulder. The Cougar defense dominated the Sooners in the first half. Turnovers is what gave Oklahoma the lead early. BYU’s defense held Bradford to 96 yards passing. BYU was in control of this game from start to finish. The defense forced a 3 and out to start the game. BYU’s offense drove down the field, and, if not for a delay of game penalty negating a 41-yard field goal, would have gone ahead 3-0. As it was, Jacobson’s fumble gave Oklahoma 7 points. An O’Neill Chambers fumble at the 1-yard line lost 7 points for BYU. Although the Cougar D gave up two big penalties (late hit and a face mask) to get Oklahoma into field goal range to end the half, the D played spectacularly well. Oklahoma never sustained a drive against the stingy Cougar defense. Look at these numbers:
Oklahoma third down conversions: 2-11
Passing yards: 147
Rushing yards: 118
The defense's finest moment came at the end of the third quarter after Oklahoma intercepted Max Hall just 22 yards away from the end zone. Two plays later at the start of the fourth quarter, Oklahoma was on the BYU 8-yard line. Oklahoma had seven tries to score, thanks to a fresh set of downs off a BYU penalty, but the defense stopped Oklahoma stone cold and forced Oklahoma to kick a field goal to keep the game a one possession game, 13-7.
On offense, BYU was not without injury itself. A hamstring injury kept running back Harvey Unga out all night. Unga had back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2007 and 2008. This placed a greater burden on Hall, who did not perform well in big games in 2008. This time Hall came up big leading the fourth quarter go-ahead touchdown drive that was 16 plays, 78 yards, and took 8:44 off the clock. He completed 9 of 10 passes on the drive, including a 23-yard pass to Dennis Pitta on 4th and 4 and the game winner to Jacobson making it 14-13.
Score (maximum points for each category is in parenthesis):
1. Caliber of Opponent: 22 points (25). Oklahoma was ranked number 3, played for the national championship the year before, had the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, two 1,000 yard running backs, and a defense that ended the year as a top 10 defense. Oklahoma finished the year a disappointing 8-5, due to the loss of Sam Bradford halfway through this game. Seven Oklahoma players (including three of the first four picks overall) were selected in the 2010 NFL draft, which is the only draft since this game.
2. What was at stake: 10 points (20). BYU was branded as a team that could not beat quality opponents after losing to TCU, Utah, and Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2008. All prognostications had BYU losing handily. After three consecutive 10+ win seasons, BYU was fighting to keep the national respect that it had gained.
3. What was the impact: 12 points (20). BYU, and particularly Max Hall, shed the image of being a team that folded in games that matter. BYU jumped from number 20 to number 9 in the rankings. Pundits were seriously considering BYU as a national title contender. I would give more points to this category, but we all remember what happened two weeks later against Florida State.
4. Underdog: 10 points (10). BYU was a heavy underdog.
5. Dramatic win: 4 points (10). The winning score came with 3:03 left in the game, but the fourth down conversion on the game winning drive was clutch. Oklahoma’s last chance ended with a missed 54-yard field goal attempt with 1:23 left. Not very dramatic. Intense, yes, but dramatic? No.
6. Underlying storylines: 3 points (5). First non-exhibition game in the Dallas Cowboys new stadium. Leading rusher Harvey Unga out with a hamstring injury. Sooner tight end Jermaine Gresham out with an injury. Both teams breaking in new offensive lines. Injury to Sam Bradford.
7. Nostalgia: 8 points (10). Upsetting a highly ranked national powerhouse was the last piece in restoring BYU to national prominence after the slide from 2002-2004. With the way BYU dominated this game on both sides of the ball, the greatness of this game should grow as time goes by.
8. Total: 69 points
BYU vs. Oklahoma, 2009, #1
BYU vs. Oklahoma, 2009, #2
BYU vs. Oklahoma, 2009, #3
Full game footage: BYU vs. Oklahoma, 2009
4. BYU 24, Michigan 17 (December 21, 1984)
3. BYU 19, Kansas State 15 (January 1, 1997)
2. BYU 46, SMU 45 (December 19, 1980)
1. BYU 28, Miami 21 (September 8, 1990)