Flashback: BYU sends off big senior class with dramatic bowl win

The 1983 Holiday Bowl represented the final game of their college football career for 33 Brigham Young Cougars. Many of these 33 players had been significant cogs in BYU bringing a 10-1 record and no. 9 national ranking into the game. On December 23, 1983, they left a lasting impression in the San Diego sod.

While the record and ranking were impressive by BYU standards, the 7-4 Missouri Tigers weren’t intimidated. They had finished second in the Big 8. Missouri had given no. 1 Nebraska a scare earlier in the year and had shutout Oklahoma 10-0.

The only points of the first quarter were scored by Missouri on a 2-yard run. All-American quarterback Steve Young was struggling through the air. Three of his passes in the first half were intercepted. Young was able to use his legs, however, to tie the game at 7 in the second quarter on an 10-yard run.

Young would finish the game with -7 yards rushing. Missouri’s pass rush was furious. The Tigers would sack Young six times.  

Although BYU would gain 10 more yards of total offense in the first half (167 to 157), Missouri would take the lead into the locker room with a 37-yard field goal before the half.

Trailing 10-7 in the third quarter, BYU would take its first lead of the game on a 33-yard pass from Young to Eddie Stinnett. Stinnett would finish the day with 60 yards receiving on a game-high five receptions. The Cougars would take the 14-10 lead into the fourth quarter.

Missouri would reclaim the lead in the fourth quarter with another 2-yard touchdown run. With close to four minutes to play, the Tigers were threatening to extend their 17-14 lead. On 4th-and-1 at the BYU 7-yard line, the Cougar defense made a huge stop. Missouri had rushed for 252 yards on the night, so getting one more didn’t seem too hard. BYU stopped Missouri for no gain.

It was the failure to convert a 4th-and-1 ten yards away from the end zone against Nebraska that led to the Tigers’ demise. This failed fourth down conversion would be just as fatal.  

With 3:57 to play, BYU needed to drive 93 yards. A 53-yard pass from Young to Mike Eddo helped move the ball into scoring territory. Rather than try a game tying field goal with less than a minute to play, Young threw an 11-yard pass to Waymon Hamilton on 4th-and-10 to pick up a first down at the Missouri 15-yard line.

The next play history was made.

Young handed the ball off to Stinnett. While Stinnett had been a weapon out of the backfield as a receiver, he had just one carry on the night for just two yards. On this play, the design wasn’t for Stinnett to run the ball.

After he ran towards the right side, Stinnett pulled up and floated a pass back across the field to Young. The ball was nearly tipped by a Missouri defender. Young barely caught the back end of the ball and proceeded to weave through the defense. One Missouri defender was able to get a hit on Young and knock him down, but it wasn’t until he crossed the goal line.

This play became Young’s signature play. He raised the ball and danced around in the end zone. With 23 seconds to play, he had given BYU a 21-17 lead. He also completed the very rare feat of rushing, throwing, and catching a touchdown in the same game.

Kyle Morrell sealed the win by intercepting a Missouri pass.

The game was sloppy with nine total turnovers (BYU 5, Missouri 4). Missouri had a dominating advantage in time of possession (37:07 to 22:53).

Other than the negative rushing total and three interceptions, Young had a solid game completing 24 of 36 passes (66.7%) for 314 yards.

The win helped move BYU up to no. 7 in the final polls.

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