BYU football: Ranking the best finishes in Cougar history

The BYU Cougars have started the season with two spectacular come from behind victories behind the arm of freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum. First he connected with Mitch Mathews from 42 yards out as time expired for the game-winning touchdown to knock off the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He followed that up a week later with a 35-yard touchdown throw to Mitchell Juergens on fourth and seven with 45 seconds left to stun Boise State.

While these first two weeks of the season for the Cougars have been amazing finishes, BYU has made a habit of ending games in dramatic fashion for a long time.

This list is a look at the best of those finishes – the games that Cougar fans will never forget.

25. Hawaii, 1993

Field goal kicking decided the game as Hawaii and the Cougars squared off in Provo. After Hawaii kicker Carlton Oswalt missed a 21-yard attempt, BYU got the ball back and a chance for the win. On the second play of the drive, John Walsh found Eric Drage for a 58-yard reception. On the next play, Joe Herrick drilled a 40-yard field goal to give BYU the 41-38 win.

24. Washington, 1999

The opening game of the 1999 season with plenty of fireworks as the Cougars came from behind to beat Washington Huskies. After Marques Tuiasosopo gave Washington a one-point lead with two fourth quarter rushing touchdowns, Kevin Feterik and BYU answered back for the win. The Cougars marched 89 yards on seven plays and capped off the drive when Feterik found Chris Hale for the 38-yard  game-winning touchdown pass with 1:16 remaining.

23. Houston, 2013

While most fans talk about the big plays Tayson Hill made with his legs, it was what he did with his arm that carried the Cougars to a dramatic win over Houston. Trailing by five with just over a minute to play, Hill found Skyler Ridley from 11 yards out to give BYU the one-point lead. Alani Fua intercepted a John O’Korn pass on the next play from scrimmage to give the Cougars the win.

22. Utah, 2009

After the Utah Utes took the lead to start overtime on a 29-yard field goal by Joe Phillips, Max Hall closed the game out with one of his signature plays as a Cougar. Facing a second and 10 from the Utah 25-yard line, Hall found Andrew George over the middle for the game winning touchdown and the third dramatic victory over the Utes in four years.

21. Oregon, 1989

The Cougars overcame a 19-point second half deficit to take the lead over the Ducks in the fourth quarter just to see their lead disappear. BYU had one last answer as Ty Detmer found Jeff Frandsen for his third touchdown catch of the game with a minute remaining to give the Cougars a 45-41 win.

20. Colorado State, 2008

After a costly late interception by Max Hall led to a 55-yard touchdown from Dion Morton, Dennis Pitta help Hall redeem himself. Trailing by four with less than 2:00 remaining, the Cougars marched 76 yards capped off by a 17-yard catch by Pitta for the game-winning score with 22 seconds left.

19. Utah State, 1983

The Aggies have been the victim of some of the best finishes in BYU history and 1983 was no different. Clinging to a 34-31 lead in the final minutes, Utah State gave the ball back to Steve Young and the Cougar offense with too much time let on the clock. BYU marched 56 yards down the field before Young found the end zone on the ground with 11 seconds left to give the Cougars the 38-34 win.

18. Tulsa, 2011

Riley Nelson and Cody Hoffman provided the magic moment as the Cougars beat Tulsa 24-21 in the Bell Helicopter Arm Forces Bowl. With the ball on the Tulsa two-yard line, Nelson faked a spike and found Hoffman open in the corner of the end zone with 11 second left for the game winning touchdown. That play capped of a 12-play drive that saw Nelson move the chains on third and fourth down runs to keep the drive alive, including a 14-yard run on fourth and nine.

17. Texas A&M, 1979

The Cougars pulled out a big win to start the 1979 season thanks to a gutsy call by the Cougars late in the game. With BYU down seven late in the game Marc Wilson led the Cougars to within one with a touchdown pass to Clay Brown with 52 seconds remaining. Instead of settling for the extra point and a tie score, the Cougars chose to go for two and the win. It was the right call as Wilson found Mike Lacey for the 18-17 win.

16. UCLA, 2007

The Cougars were on the brink of defeat after the UCLA Bruins had moved the ball down the field and into great position for a chip shot field goal for the win. That’s when Eathyn Manumaleuna stepped in and made sure the Cougars ended up on top. He got a hand up and blocked a Kai Forbath 28-yard field goal attempt to secure the 17-16 win for BYU in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl.

15. Wyoming, 1996

A game of highs and lows ended with the Cougars hoisting up another WAC championship thanks to the leg of Ethan Pochman. Trailing by five late in the fourth quarter, the BYU defense stepped up and forced the Cowboys into a punting situation. Instead of the punt, Wyoming took a safety to cut the margin to 25-22. On the ensuing possession the Cougars marched 57 yards in 1:56 before Pochman drilled a 20-yard field goal with no time left to push the game to overtime.

He added to his heroics in overtime with a 32-yard field goal to give BYU a 28-25 win over the Cowboys and a trip to the Cotton Bowl.

14. Arizona, 1976 

One of the first great finishes in BYU football came in Tucson in 1976 when the Cougars stunned the Arizona Wildcats in the final seconds of the game. With the score tied at 16, Gifford Nielsen found George Harris behind the Wildcat defense for the touchdown and the 23-16 win with just three seconds left.

13. Utah State, 2011

It took some great scrambling ability from Riley Nelson and a little luck as the Cougars came from behind to outlast the Utah State Aggies. BYU moved the ball from its own four-yard line in the final three minutes of the game and had the ball deep in Aggie territory. On the next play, Nelson fired a pass towards the end zone, that was deflected by an Aggie defender, but landed right in the waiting arms of Marcus Mathews for the game winning score with 11 seconds to go.

12. Texas A&M, 1996

The Cougars started out one of the best seasons in school history with a come from behind win over No. 12 ranked Texas A&M. After the Aggies drilled a 52-yard field goal to take a 37-34 lead, the Cougars answered right back behind the arm of Steve Sarkisian. The Cougars marched 78 yards on just three plays for the game-winning score when Sarkisian found K.O. Kealaluhi from 46 yards out for the touchdown with 1:03 to play.

11. Pittsburgh, 1984

The game that started the run to the National title has to be on the list of the best finishes for the Cougars. With the Cougars trailing late on the road at No. 3 ranked Pittsburgh, Robbie Bosco found Adam Haysbert for a 50-yard touchdown with 1:30 left on the clock and the 20-14 win.

10. Boise State, 2015

Mangum was at it again during his first start for the Cougars. This time he connected with Mitchell Juergens on a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth and seven with just 45 second remaining for the game-winning score. Safety Kai Nacua sealed the win on the next play from scrimmage when he intercepted a pass and took it 50 yards for the score.

9. Utah, 2000

After the Utes scored three times in the fourth quarter to take the lead, BYU answered one last time to give LaVell Edwards a 34-27 win in the final game of his coaching career. Facing fourth and 13 on the Cougars 17-yard line, Brandon Doman avoided the rush and found Jonathan Pittman for a 34-yard gain to keep hope alive. Following another big completion to Pittman, Doman found the end zone from four yards with 23 seconds left for the game-winning score.

8. Utah, 2007

The Cougars found a way to knock off archrival Utah for the second year in a row thanks to a magical play. With BYU down to a fourth-and-18 late in the contest, Max Hall found Austin Collie behind the defense for a 49-yard gain. After a pair of 15-yard penalties on the Utes moved the Cougars into the red zone, Harvey Unga scored from 11 yards out to give BYU the game-winning touchdown.

7. Utah, 2001

The Cougars kept the dream of an undefeated season alive thanks to some big plays from Luke Staley and an interception from Jenaro Gilford. With BYU trailing by 11 late in the fourth quarter, the Cougars put together two huge drives to take the lead. The first score came a seven yard pass from Brandon Doman to Staley followed by a two-point conversion from the Doak Walker winner. BYU got the ball back and moved 59 yards in under a minute and finished off the drive with a 30-yard touchdown run to give the Cougars the lead with 1:16 to play.

The Utes had one last shot after moving the ball into BYU territory, but Gilford intercepted Lance Rice to secure the win.

6. Kansas State, 1996

The officials or Kansas State couldn’t stop the Cougars from becoming the first team to win 14 games in a season. BYU scored its first touchdown on the game in the fourth quarter on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Steve Sarkisian to James Dye to cut the Wildcats lead to three. The Cougars took the lead seven minutes later when Sarkisian found K.O. Kealaluhi from 28 yards out fo the 19-15 lead.

In a game that was dominated by defense, Omarr Morgan clinched the Cotton Bowl win with an interception on the Wildcats last drive.

5. Michigan, 1984

The game that gave BYU its only National Championship finished like many of the games during the 1984 season – it came down to the wire. The Cougars tied the game at 17 earlier in the fourth quarter on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Robbie Bosco to Glen Kozlowski. After a stop, BYU got the ball back and moved it 83 yards for the game-winning score when Bosco found Kelly Smith for the 13-yard touchdown with 1:23 left in the game. Marv Allen slammed the door shut on the Wolverines with and interception to secure the win.

4. Missouri, 1983

After showing off his amazing skills as a passer and a runner, quarterback Steve Young showed what he could do as a receiver as the Cougars dropped the Tigers in the Holiday Bowl. With BYU trailing by four in the last minute of the game. Young pitched the ball to Eddie Stinnett. Stinnett faked the run and found Young open in the flat on the halfback pass for the game winning 14-yard touchdown with just 23 seconds left.

3. Nebraska, 2015

With the Cougars trialing in the final minute of the game, Tanner Mangum showed what all the hype was about. He managed to avoid pressure and heave up a pray that was answered in the waiting arms of Mitch Mathews in front of three Cornhusker defenders to give BYU a 33-28 win as time expired.

2. Utah, 2006

To this day, Cougar fans mention that Johnny Harline is still open. That’s how great a finish it was as the Cougars shocked the Utah Utes on the final play of the game for a 33-31 win. BYU scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to take the lead, but the Utes responded with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Brett Ratliff to Brent Casteel with 1:19 remaining. Beck and Harline answered for one of the best finishes in school history. With the ball on the Utah 11-yard line and three seconds left, Beck took the snap and hung in the pocket for what seemed like forever before he got pressure and scrambled to hist right. Just before he got hammered, he let the ball go back across the field to a wide open Harline at the front of the end zone for the first win over Utah in five years.

1. SMU, 1980

Not only is the Holiday Bowl win over SMU the best finish for the Cougars, it is one of the best in NCAA history. Trailing by 20 with just over four minutes remaining, the Matt Braga scored to cut the lead to 13. Following a recovered onside kick, Scott Phillips found the end zone on a one-yard run. Bill Schoepflin came up with the next huge play when he blocked the Mustangs’ to give BYU the ball back and one last chance. Jim McMahon finished off the legendary comeback when he found Clay Brown from 46 yards out after time had expired to give the Cougars the 46-45 win.


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