Going into 1972, BYU had suffered back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1964. From 1965-1969, BYU had enjoyed unprecedented success that included the school’s first ever conference championship. The Cougars had beat the dreaded Utes for three consecutive seasons from 1965-67, but couldn’t muster a win in the four seasons that followed. The 1972 media guide used the phrases “things that didn’t go as planned” and “Cougars will be moving up the ladder” to describe the outcome of the 1971 season and the outlook for 1972, respectively.
The first move to making this ascent up the ladder was to hire a new coach. LaVell Edwards replaced Tommy Hudspeth as the man in charge. Under Edwards, BYU got off on the right foot by winning the season opening game 32-9 over Kansas State. The Cougars finished strong winning four of their final five games. At season’s end, it was clear that BYU football had successfully rebounded.
There was no shortage of signs indicating this rebound:
- BYU finished 7-4 marking just the third time in school history, and first time since 1966, that the Cougars won seven or more games;
- BYU earned a second place finish in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC);
- BYU beat Utah, 16-7;
- BYU Pete Van Valkenburg became just the second player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season;
- BYU players broke 12 school records;
- BYU defensive tackle Paul Linford was named WAC Newcomer of the Year;
- BYU head coach LaVell Edwards was named WAC Coach of the Year;
- BYU was first in the WAC in scoring defense.
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