The Brigham Young Cougars had a nice 27-24 comeback win over Utah State. It had a similar feel to two other comeback wins in BYU football history. Given their similarities, the team may want to consider adopting a new rallying cry.
The first comeback win was also the fifth game of the year for BYU. The season was not off to a good start, and the team was struggling to find itself. Nevertheless, in the fourth quarter, BYU trailed by the same score they trailed Utah State, 24-13, before staging an improbable rally.
On October 8, 2005, BYU was playing New Mexico. The BYU defense recovered a fumble with 12:51 to play in the fourth quarter at the BYU 7-yard line. The turnover prevented what appeared to be a sure scoring drive for the Lobos, but there was little hope that the Cougar offense would do much with the ball.
BYU had taken a 13-7 lead with 11:27 to play in the second quarter. Nearly two full quarters had passed. During that time, New Mexico had scored 17 unanswered points to lead 24-13.
John Beck steadily led BYU out of the shadow of its end zone to the 30-yard line. He completed a pass to Jonny Harline for 19 yards, only to have it called back for pass interference on Harline. It was now 1st and 25. Good luck.
Luck is exactly what BYU found. Beck connected for 17 yards to Matt Allen, followed by a 7 yard completion the next play. It was now 3rd and 1. New Mexico jumped off sides to give BYU a first down. BYU was still 55 yards away from a touchdown, but seven plays later, Curtis Brown ran the ball into the end zone to make it a 24-19 game with 7:15 to play.
The BYU defense got the ball back, but it took some time. With just 2:48 to play, BYU was 80 yards away from a game winning touchdown. Beck didn’t waste time. He completed five consecutive passes. The fifth was a 23-yard scoring strike to Allen. Brown scored a two-point conversion to give BYU a 27-24 lead with 1:40 to go. The defense held to preserve the win.
This win over the Lobos turned the season around for BYU. Rather than fall to 1-4, the Cougars rallied for the win and finished the regular season 6-5. After three consecutive losing seasons, they were going to a bowl game again. It truly was a turning point for the season and the program.
Though not quite as similar, another early season BYU win over New Mexico comes to mind where BYU rallied to victory and the win propelled the Cougars on a run to finish the year. It, too, was played the Friday before General Conference.
On Friday, October 3, 1975, in the fourth game of the year, BYU trailed New Mexico 12-0. With the offense unable to do anything all night long, LaVell Edwards called on reserve quarterback Gifford Nielsen to go into the game late in the third quarter. Nielsen was able to guide BYU 62 yards to a touchdown—a 37-yard pass—in three plays.
The Lobos kicked a field goal to extend the lead back to 15-7 with 11:47 to play in the fourth quarter. Nielsen took BYU down the field like clockwork and threw his second touchdown pass. The two-point after touchdown attempt failed, and BYU still trailed 15-13.
The defense got the ball back for the offense with plenty of time to play. Fourteen plays later, and with just 1:48 to play, Dave Taylor kicked a 30-yard field goal to win the game 16-15.
Nielsen finished the game 10 of 12 passing for 148 yards and 2 TDs (look familiar?). BYU had found its new starting quarterback.
It was BYU’s first win of the season. Prior to that game, BYU was 0-3. The win propelled the Cougars on to a winning season, 6-5. Since then, BYU football has never been the same.
New Rallying Cry
The comeback win over Utah State has several similarities to two previous BYU comeback wins over New Mexico. Each of these wins served as a springboard for the rest of those seasons and, possibly, beyond. In order to find a similar long term impact to this season, maybe the 2011 BYU Cougars should adopt a new rally cry.
Texas has “Remember the Alamo.” BYU could use “Remember the Lobo.”
Okay, this rally cry is downright laughable, but winning games isn't. If this is what it takes, so be it. No one will be laughing at the end of the year if BYU has its fifth 10 win season in the last six years.
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