Ranking the best season by a quarterback in BYU history

BYU has been known as a quarterback factory for the better part of four decades, and for good reason. They have provided some of the best years in all of school history. They have led BYU to incredible seasons on the grid iron as a team and helped to propel Cougars into the national spotlight. Along the way, the great BYU signal callers have received plenty of recognition on both the conference and national level. There have been conference player of the year awards, all-American seasons,Sammy Baugh and Davey O’Brien trophies for the Nation’s best quarterback and even a Heisman Trophy.

While most of the quarterbacks have done most of the damage through the air, some have also done serious work with their legs.  Both skill sets were taken into account when ranking each season as well as team success, and individual awards.  It is also important to know that while stats played a role in these rankings, it was more important how each player fared in relation to their peers because the game has changed so much.

Here is a look at the best of the best of those seasons.

All rankings in conference and national leader boards from Sports-reference.com.  All award information, school records and NCAA records from BYUCougars.com.

Honorable mention

John Beck, 2005: even though the Cougars struggled to a 6-6 record, Beck had a monster year in 2005.  He earned all-Mountain West Conference first-team after he led the league in completion percentage, passing yards, total yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns.  His numbers were also good enough to place him in the top ten in the nation in passing yards (fifth), total yards (seventh), passing touchdowns (ninth) and total touchdowns (10th).  His most impressive game of the season came in a 51-50 overtime loss to TCU when he completed 30-of-51 passes for 517 yards and five touchdowns.

On the season, he completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 3,709 yards and 27 touchdowns to only 13 interceptions.  He also added 61 yards and a pair of scores on the ground.

Kevin Feterik, 1999: Feterik had his best season in 1999 when he helped to lead the Cougars to an 8-4 record and a share of the Mountain West Conference Championship.  Along the way, he led the conference in completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing efficiency rating, total yards and total touchdowns to earn first-team all-conference honors.  Those numbers were good enough to place him in the top 10 in the nation in passing yards (seventh), passing touchdowns (10th) and total yards (ninth).   His best game of the season came in the season opening 35-28 win over Washington when he completed 39-of-59 passes for 501 yards and three touchdowns.

On the season, he completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 3,554 yards and 25 touchdowns as well as 15 interceptions.

Steve Sarkisian, 1995: Sarkisian led BYU to a 9-5 record and a share of the Mountain West Conference Championship after a solid showing that earned him second-team all-WAC.  Along the way, he finished third in the conference in touchdown passes and passing efficiency rating, as well as first in both completion percentage and passing yards.  Those numbers were good enough to place him in the top 10 in the nation in passing efficiency rating (10th), completion percentage (fifth) and passing yards (third).  His best game of the year came in a 45-28 win over Fresno State when he completed 31-of-34 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns.

On the season, he completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 3,437 yards and 20 touchdowns as well as 14 interceptions.  He also added two scores on the ground.

Taysom Hill, 2013: while he didn’t have the prototypical season for a BYU signal caller, Hill was dominant on the ground for the 8-5 Cougars. In fact, he set the single season mark for rushing by a BYU quarterback.    While he didn’t have nearly the same amount of success in the passing game, he improved as the year went on after a slow start.  His best game of the season came in a 47-46 win on the road at Houston when he completed 29-of-44 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns to go along with 128 yards rushing.

On the season, he completed 53.9 percent of his passes for 2,938 yards and 19 touchdowns as well as 14 interceptions.  He also added 1,344 yards and 10 scores on 246 carries.

25.  Max Hall, 2007: after John Beck finished his career in style in 2006, Hall picked up right where he left off in ’07.  He led the Cougars to an 11-2 record and a Mountain West Conference title and earned first-team all-conference.  During his solid sophomore campaign, he led the MWC in passing yards (eighth in the nation), total yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns.  His most impressive game of the season came in a 55-47 loss to Tulsa when he completed 59.6 percent of his throws for 537 yards and four touchdowns.

For the season, he completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 3,848 yards and 26 touchdowns as well as 12 interceptions.

24.  John Walsh, 1993: even though the season didn’t turn out the way that anyone hoped after the Cougars started out at 4-0, BYU way able to earn a share of the Western Athletic Conference title behind the strong-arm of Walsh.  Along the way, he finished third in the conference in passing yards, completion percentage and total yards, second in passing touchdowns and passing efficiency rating and first in total touchdowns.  Those numbers were good enough to place him in the top 10 in the nation in passing efficiency rating (ninth), total yards (seventh), passing yards (fourth), passing touchdowns (fourth) and total touchdowns (second).  His best game of the year came in a 58-56 loss to Utah State when he set a BYU record with 619 yards passing and five touchdowns.

On the season, he completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 3,727 yards and 28 touchdowns as well as 15 interceptions.  He also added three more scores on the ground.

23.  Max Hall, 2009: Hall finished up his career with plenty of flair as he led the Cougars to an 11-2 record and a 44-20 victory over Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl.  His best game of the season came in a 52-0 win over Wyoming when he completed 20-of-22 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns.  During his special senior year, he led the  Mountain West Conference in every major statistical passing category.  His numbers were also good enough to place him in the top 10 in the country in completion percentage (10th), passing yards (ninth), passing touchdowns (third), passing efficiency rating (fourth) and total touchdowns (seventh).

For the season, he completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 3,560 yards and 33 touchdowns as well as 14 interceptions.  He also added 75 yards and two scores on the ground.

22.  Gary Sheide, 1973: Sheide was the first in a long line of terrific quarterbacks under hall of fame coach LaVell Edwards.  Although the Cougars finished with a 5-6 record, he put up huge numbers in the passing game.  He finished in the top five in the nation in completion percentage (third), passing yards (third), passing touchdowns (second), total yards (fourth) and total touchdowns (second).  His best game of the season in a 56-21 win over New Mexico when he complete 32-of-50 passes for 408 yards and six touchdowns through the air as well as another on the ground.

For the season, he completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 2,350 yards and 22 touchdowns as well as 12 interceptions.  He also added five touchdowns on the ground for the 5-6 Cougars.

21.  John Walsh, 1994: Walsh had his second straight impressive season to help lead the Cougars to a 10-3 record and a 31-6 win over Oklahoma in the Copper Bowl.  Along the way, he finished third in the country in total yards and total touchdowns as well as landing at the top of the national charts in passing yards and passing touchdowns.  His best game of the season came in the Copper Bowl win when Walsh completed 31-of-45 passes 454 yards and four touchdowns to earn the MVP.

On the season, he completed 61.3 percent of his passes 3,712 yards and 29 touchdowns as well as 14 interceptions.

20.  Virgil Carter, 1965: 1965 was a huge year for Carter as he set school records in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense to earn WAC offensive player of the year honors.  He finished ninth in th nation in passing yards as well as third in the nation in total yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns.  His most impressive statistical game of the year came in a 25-20 to Utah when he set a BYU record with four touchdown passes.

For the season, he completed 48 percent of his passes for 1,789 yards and 20 touchdowns as well as 13 interceptions.  He also totaled 474 yards and four scores on the ground to help the Cougars to a 6-4 record and a WAC title.

19.  Steve Young, 1982: in his first year as a starter, Young showed that he could get it done with both his legs and his arm as he led the Cougars to an 8-4 record and a WAC championship.  Along the way, he led the WAC in completion percentage, passing efficiency rating, passing yards, total yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns as well as second in the conference in rushing touchdowns.  Those numbers were good enough to place him in the top 10 in the nation in completion percentage (eighth), passing efficiency rating (seventh), passing yards (fourth), passing touchdowns (10th), total yards (second) and total touchdowns (second).  His best game of the year came in a 51-3 win over UTEP when he threw for 399 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 97 yards on the ground.

For the season, he earned WAC offensive player of the year after he completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 3,100 yards and 18 touchdowns as well as 18 interceptions.  He also totaled 407 yards and 10 touchdowns.

18.  Marc Wilson, 1977: even though he didn’t start until the fifth game of the season (according to BYUCougars.com), Wilson earned WAC offensive player of the year honors after he helped to propel the Cougars to a 9-2 record and a share of the conference championship. In his seven regular season starts, Wilson managed to put up such impressive numbers that he finished in the top 10 in the nation in completion percentage (seventh), passing yards (fourth), passing touchdowns (second), total yards (second) and total touchdowns (third). One of his most remarkable games of the season came in a 63-17 win over Colorado State when he threw for 332 yards and seven touchdowns.

On the season, he completed 59.2 percent of his passes for 2,418 yards and 24 touchdowns as well as 18 interceptions.

17.  Eldin Fortie, 1962: although Fortie relied on his legs more than his arm, he put a huge year for the 4-6 Cougars to earn WAC offensive player of the year and finish 10th in the Heisman Trophy voting.  Along the way, he finished second in the country in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns as well as third in total yards.  During the season, he set school records for rushing yards against George Washington (272) and total yards against Arizona (343).

For the season, he completed 43 percent of his passes for 814 yards and seven touchdowns as well as 11 interceptions.  He also added 1,149 yards  and 14 scores on the ground.

16.  Virgil Carter, 1966: Carter earned his second straight WAC offensive player of the year award in ’66 after he led the Cougars to an 8-2 record.  In his recording-breaking season, he finished third in the country in passing yards, second in passing touchdowns as well as first in both total yards and total touchdowns.  His best game of the season came in a 53-33 win over Texas Western (UTEP) when he set an NCAA record for passing yards (513) and total offense (599) while throwing five touchdown passes.

On the season, he completed 48.1 percent of his passes  for 2,162 yards and 21 touchdowns as well as 16 interceptions.  He was also responsible for 363 yards and nine scores on 95 carries as a runner.

15.  Max Hall, 2008:  Hall had his second of three straight impressive seasons in 2008 to lead the Cougars to a 10-3 record.  As part of his remarkable year, he led the Mountain West Conference in completion percentage, efficiency rating, passing yards, total yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns.  Those numbers were good enough to place him in the top 10 nationally in Total yards (ninth), total touchdowns (ninth), passing touchdowns (eighth), passing yards (seventh) and completion percentage (fifth).  His best game of the year came in a 45-42 win over Colorado State on the road when he completed 28-of-35 passes for 389 yards and five touchdowns.

For the season, he completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 3,957 yards and 35 touchdowns as well as 14 interceptions.  he also added 115 yards and four scores on the ground.

14.  Brandon Doman, 2001: Doman was a part of one of the most dynamic offenses in Cougar history as he and Luke Staley put on a show in 2001.  As part of that season, Doman took home the Mountain West Conference offensive player of the year after he led the league in every major passing category.  Those passing numbers were good enough to place him in the top five in the nation in passing touchdowns (fifth), passing yards (fourth), total yards (third) and total touchdowns (second).  His best game of the year came in a 56-34 win over Colorado State when he completed 21-of-27 passes for 284 yards and a score, while adding 164 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

For the season, he completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,542 yards and 33 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.  He was also a beast on the ground with 503 yards and eight more scores.

13.  John Beck, 2006: Beck had a senior season to remember when he led the Cougars to an 11-2 record and an undefeated championship season in the Mountain West Conference.  He led the conference in every major passing category to earn the offensive player of the year.  In fact, his numbers were good enough to place him in the top five in the nation passing yards (fifth), passing touchdowns (fifth), total touchdowns (fourth), completion percentage (third) and efficiency rating (second).  His most memorable game of the season came in a 33-31 win over Utah when he completed 28-of-43 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns, including a throw on the last play of the game to secure the win.

On the season, he completed 69.3 percent of his passes for 3,885 yards and 32 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.  He also added six scores on the ground.

12.  Gary Sheide, 1974: Sheide was at the helm for a WAC championship season and earned plenty of national recognition along the way in 1974.  He earned WAC offensive player of the year after he finished in the top five in the country in passing yards (fourth), total touchdowns (third), passing efficiency rating (third), completion percentage (second) and passing touchdowns (first).  Those numbers were good enough for him to finish eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting and earn the Sammy Baugh award as the nation’s most outstanding passer.  His best game of the year came in a 45-21 win over UTEP when he completed 27-of-40 passes for 388 yards and five touchdowns.

For the season, he completed 60.3 percent of his passes 2174 yards and 23 touchdowns as well as 19 interceptions.

11.  Gifford Nielsen, 1976: Nielsen earned numerous all-American honors (AP second team, UPI second team and Football Writers of America first team) and broke 13 school and WAC records during his remarkable junior season.  He won the WAC offensive player of the year  and finished sixth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy after he led the country passing yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns.  His most impressive game of the season came in a 45-14 win over Utah State when he threw for 468 yards and five touchdowns.

On the season, he completed 56.7  percent of his passes for 3,401 yards and 30 touchdowns as well as 23 interceptions, including the bowl game.

10.  Robbie Bosco, 1985: while the season wasn’t as magical for the Cougars in 1985, Bosco still had a monster year.  In fact, he threw for more yards and a better completion  then in ’84.  He led the WAC in every major passing category and finished on the top of the national leader board in passing yards, total yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns for the 11-3 Cougars.  One of his most impressive games of the season came in a 45-23 win over Wyoming when he threw for 585 yards and four touchdowns.

For the season, he completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 4,273 yards and 30 touchdowns as well as 24 interceptions and finished third in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.

9.  Marc Wilson, 1979: Wilson had a bounce back season as a senior in 1979 to earn WAC offensive player of the year for the second time in three seasons after he led the league in every major passing category.  His numbers were also good enough to place him a t the top of the national leader board in passing yards, passing touchdowns, total yards and total touchdowns as well as earn consensus first-team all-America recognition.  Along with that, he won the Sammy Baugh award as the most outstanding passer in the nation.  His best game of the year came in 54-14 win over Wyoming when he completed 33-of-49 passes for 494 yards and four touchdowns.

For the season, he completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 3,720 yards and 29 touchdowns as well as 15 interceptions.  He also added four scores on the ground for the 11-1 Cougars.

8.  Ty Detmer, 1989: his first full season as a starter was the first of three remarkable years for Detmer under center for BYU.  That year, he led the WAC in every major passing category to earn first-team all-conference honors.  Those numbers also placed first in the nation in passing efficiency rating as well as second in passing yards, total yards, passing touchdowns,  total touchdowns and completion percentage.  One of his most impressive outings on the season came in a 70-31 win over Utah when he completed 18-of-22 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns.

On the season, he completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 4,560 yards and 32 touchdowns as well as 15 interceptions.  He also added six scores on the ground for the 10-3 Cougars.

7.  Steve Sarkisian, 1996: behind an incredible season by Sarkisian the Cougars had their best season since they won the national championship in 1984.  Along the way, he led the nation in completion percentage and passing efficiency rating.  He also finished second in the country in passing yards, total yards and passing touchdowns to earn the Sammy Baugh award.  Those numbers were also good enough for him to earn WAC offensive player of the year and second-team all-America honors from Football News.  His best game of the year came in the season opening 41-37 win over Texas A&M when he completed 33-of-44 passes for 536 yards and six touchdowns.

For the season, he completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 4,027 yards and 33 touchdowns as well as 12 interceptions for the 14-1 Cougars.

6.  Ty Detmer, 1991: following his 1990 campaign in which Detmer took home the Heisman Trophy, he put up another special season when he led the Cougars to another WAC title.  In fact, he led the nation passing yards, total yards, total touchdowns and passing efficiency rating.  His season was good enough to take home his second consecutive WAC offensive player of the year and Davey O’Brien award (most outstanding quarterback) as well as earning consensus first-team all-American honors for the second straight year.  His best game of the season came in an epic 52-52 tie with San Diego State when he completed 31-of-54 passes for 599 yards and six touchdowns.

On the season, he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting after he completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 4,031 yards and 35 touchdowns as well as 12 interceptions.  He also added four scores on the ground  for the 8-3-2 Cougars.

5.  Robbie Bosco, 1984: Bosco led the Cougars to the best season in school history and a national title thanks to a fantastic season under center.  He led the WAC in every major passing category to earn conference offensive player of the year honors and win the Sammy Baugh Award.  His numbers were also good enough to lead the nation in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns as well as second in passing efficiency rating and total yards.  His best game of the year came in a 30-25 win over Air Force when he completed 28-of-41 passes for 484 yards and four touchdowns.

For the season, he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting after he completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 3,875 yards and 33 touchdowns as well as the 11 interceptions.  He also added a pair of touchdowns on the ground for the 13-0 Cougars.

4.  Jim McMahon, 1981: McMahon won the WAC offensive player of the year for the third time in four years after he led the Cougars to another outstanding season.  Along the way, he led the nation in completion percentage and passing efficiency rating to secure the Sammy Baugh and Davey O’Brien Awards, and earn consensus first-team all-American honors.  His best game of the season came in 56-28 win over Utah when he threw for 565 yards and four touchdowns.

On the season, he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting after he completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 3,555 yards and 30 touchdowns to only seven interceptions for the 11-2 Cougars.

3.  Jim McMahon, 1980: although most of his national recognition came a year later, McMahon was at his best in ’80.  He led the Cougars to 12 straight wins after an opening season loss to New Mexico, including one of the greatest comebacks in college football history.  As part of his legendary season, McMahon broke 32 NCAA records after he led the nation in passing yards, total yards, passing touchdowns, total touchdowns and passing efficiency rating. His best game of the regular season came in a 70-46 win over Utah State when he threw for 485 yards and totaled eight touchdowns. (six passing, two rushing).  He also put up a huge night in a 46-45 come-from-behind victory over SMU when he 32-of-49 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns, according to HolidayBowl.com.

For the season, he finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting after he completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 4,571 yards and 47 touchdowns as well as 18 interceptions.  He also added six scores on the ground  for the 12-1 Cougars.

2.  Steve Young, 1983: Young had the best season of any senior signal caller in school history in 1983.  Following an opening game loss to Baylor, he led the Cougars to 11 consecutive wins, including another victory in the Holiday Bowl.  He led the nation in every major passing category to win both the Sammy Baugh and Davey O’Brien award as well as earning consensus first-team all-American.  One of his best showings of the season came in a 46-28 win over Air Force when he completed 39-of-49 passes for 486 yards and three touchdowns.  He also added a monster game in a 55-7 win over Utah when he was 22-for-25 for 268 yards and six touchdowns.

On the season, he completed 71.3 percent of his passes for 3,902 yards and 33 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions.  He also added 444 yards and eight scores on the ground for the 11-1 Cougars.

1.  Ty Detmer, 1990: although Detmer led the nation in interceptions thrown as a junior, he also led the NCAA in passing yards and finished second in passing touchdowns, total touchdowns, total yards and passing efficiency rating.  That was good enough for him to take home the only Heisman Trophy in school history.  He also added the Davey O’Brien award and the Maxwell award (player of the year)  to his trophy case to go along with consensus first-team all-American honors.  During a season full outstanding performances, Detmer had one of his best against San Diego State when he led the Cougars to a 62-34 victory after he completed 26-of-38 passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns.

For the season, he completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 5,188 yards and 41 touchdowns as well as 28 interceptions.  He also added four scores on the ground for the 10-3 Cougars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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