The Brigham Young Cougars 13 Most Important Wins

The voice of the Brigham Young Cougars, Greg Wrubell, is soliciting our help to determine the 13 most IMPORTANT wins in BYU football history. From Wrubell's blog Cougar Tracks:
On this season of "BYU Football with Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall" on KSL 5 TV (Sunday nights at 11:00pm), we will be counting down the "13 Most Important Wins in BYU Football History" during Jeremiah Jensen's "Cougar Classics."

We are asking for your help in determining and then ranking those 13 wins.

E-mail either or with your list of 13 games, ranked or unranked, to help us form the list of games we will be ranking. Once the list is complete, we plan to create a poll on to rank the games, then week by week on the Sunday night broadcast, we'll reveal BYU's most important wins, one by one.

E-mail submissions will be accepted until Friday, August 13th.
I recently counted down the Top 10 BYU Football Games, but what Wrubell is doing is a little different. He is asking for the most IMPORTANT games. Many of the games on my top 10 list are some of the most important games in BYU football history, but the order will be different since a different element of a game is being measured.

Here is the list I am submitting:

1. BYU 24, Michigan 17 (1984 Holiday Bowl)—Capped off the one and only perfect season and gave BYU the national championship.

2. BYU 19, Kansas State 15 (1997 Cotton Bowl)—Must win situation after the Bowl Alliance snub. Not only would losing this game validate the selection committee passing over BYU, it would validate the Bowl Alliance excluding all teams not in a "Big Six" conference. On this day BYU was playing for all those teams as much as BYU was playing for BYU. The win smeared egg on the face of the Bowl Alliance. It also made BYU the first team to win 14 games in a season, a record that still stands.

3. BYU 28, Miami 21 (1990)—Without this win, BYU is probably still waiting for its first Heisman Trophy winner. It is the only time BYU has beaten the number one ranked team.

4. BYU 46, SMU 45 (1980 Holiday Bowl)—First bowl win. For 30 years and counting, the 20 point comeback with 3:58 to play has given BYU coaches, players, and fans the feeling that anything is possible. I don't doubt that this game has provided the necessary motivation and inspiration for many of the great moments in BYU football since 1980.

5. BYU 18, Texas A&M 17 (1979)—The first upset of a nationally ranked non-conference opponent. This win jumpstarted the first perfect regular season in BYU football history. It caught the attention of the national media, which paved the way for BYU to have enough respect in 1984 to win the national championship. Upsetting nationally ranked teams has become part of BYU’s identity, and it is almost expected.

6. BYU 21, Arizona State 18 (1974)—It was a toss up between this game or the Arizona game from the same year. Each team was ranked number 16 when they played BYU. After having tied Colorado State earlier in the year, it was essential for BYU to win both games for LaVell Edwards to win his first conference championship. By winning the WAC, the BYU football program started to be redefined as a program of success, and the passing scheme employed by LaVell was legitimized. In the end, I went with the Arizona State game as the more important game because it came later in the year and was the last real test for BYU. In a way, it incorporates the earlier win against Arizona and represents the climax of the season. Nevertheless, the Arizona win is more impressive since Arizona finished 9-2 compared to 7-5 for Arizona State, the game was played in Tuscon (BYU played ASU in Provo), and the margin of victory was 24 points (37-13).

7. BYU 31, TCU 17 (2006)—The turning point in Bronco Mendenhall’s career and mini-odyssey to restore BYU football to the glory days. Without the win, BYU does not win the conference title outright, and the team’s confidence is not the same as it attempts to run the table to an 11-2 record.

8. BYU 34, Utah 27 (2000)—Must win for two reasons. 1) LaVell’s final game. No other way for him to go out except as a winner. 2) Avoid a losing season for only the second time under Coach Edwards. Not only does LaVell need to go out a winner in his final game, he can’t go out with a losing season.

9. BYU 16, New Mexico 15 (1975)—Struggling to move on after Gary Sheide, BYU was 0-3 going into the game. By the end of the game, BYU had started what ended as a 6-2 run and found the quarterback of the future—Gifford Nielsen. Without the win, BYU could have fallen back to mediocrity and none of the rich tradition we know would exist. Instead, BYU was able to salvage the season and was set to build on the accomplishment of the year before.

10. BYU 20, Colorado 17 (1988 Freedom Bowl)—This game ushered in the Ty Demer era. Detmer replaced Sean Covey after the halftime break and led the come from behind win. Without Detmer leading the team to victory, does Coach Edwards decide to move Detmer to number one on the depth chart while Covey still has a year of eligibility? If Detmer plays back up for one more year, we can forget the Heisman Trophy, the NCAA records, and many of the things that made 1989 great.

11. BYU 28, Air Force 21 (1985)—A win against a team ranked in the top 5. It was essential that BYU win if the Cougars were going to extend their string of WAC championships to an even 10. This was Air Force’s only loss on the year.

12. BYU 31, Washington 3 (1985)—After the controversy over the national championship the year before, BYU needed to win this game. Even with the year-to-year turnover, it made a statement to the nation.

13. BYU 33, Utah 31 (2006)—“Five in a row won’t happen.” Although BYU had already won the MWC title outright, BYU needed this win for the program. Part of the return to glory included getting the upper hand in this rivalry. Not only that, but BYU did not want to look back on such a successful season knowing that they let this one get away. Look what the final play, Beck to Harline, has started: every BYU win has a moment just as magical as the last play in 2006.

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