BYU football: Ranking the most prolific passing performances in Cougar history

Much of BYU’s success on the gridiron came thanks to a remarkable passing offense that pushed opposing defenses to the limit. Cougar quarterbacks became mainstays at or near the top of NCAA leaderboards for passing efficiency, yards and touchdowns. Many of those signal callers also shattered records at the conference and national level thanks to some massive passing days that Cougar fans will never forget.

This list is the ranking of the best-of-the-best those performances, the most prolific passing games based on yards in BYU history

9-T. Ty Detmer, Sept. 7, 1989, Washington State

Detmer put up huge numbers as a BYU comeback came up just short against Washington State. In the 46-41 loss, he completed 34 of 53 passes for 537 yards including three touchdown passes to Matt Bellini and another to Matt Odle.

9-T. Max Hall, Sept. 15, 2007, Tulsa

Hall showed he could air it out with the best of them as he and the Cougar offense tried to keep pass with Tulsa in a 55-47 loss. In the setback, he completed 34 of 57 throws for 537 yards and four touchdowns. It was also a day where he showed he could really spread the ball around as 10 different players made catches including Michael Reed, Austin Collie and Dennis Pitta who all had more than 100 yards receiving and a score.

8. Jim McMahon, Nov. 7, 1981, Colorado State

McMahon embarrassed the Rams defense to the tune of 538 passing yards and seven touchdowns as the Cougars obliterated Colorado State, 63-14. Jimmy Mac was dealing from the opening minutes as he registered four first-half touchdowns (three to Gordon Hudson), as BYU raced out to a 35-14 halftime lead.

7. Ty Detmer, Nov. 24, 1990, Utah State

Detmer had a monster day as the Cougars hammered the Utah State Aggies, 45-10. In the win, the Heisman Trophy winner completed 32 of 50 passes for 560 yards including touchdown passes to five different receivers. It was Detmer’s most passing yards for BYU in a win.

6. Jim McMahon, Nov. 21, 1981, Utah

McMahon picked the Utes apart from start to finish as BYU dismantled Utah, 56-28. In the impressive win, he completed 35 of 54 throws for 565 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those scoring throws were caught by Hudson while Dan Plater and David Mills caught the others.

5. Marc Wilson, Nov. 5, 1977, Utah

Wilson delivered the biggest passing day in NCAA history as the Cougars hammered the archrival Utes, 38-8. In the win, he completed 26 of 41 passes for a then NCAA record 571 yards and five touchdowns. Tod Thompson, Mike Chronister and Todd Christensen all took throws to the endzone while John VanderWouden registered two touchdown catches.

4. Ty Detmer, Dec. 29, 1989, Penn State

Detmer racked up nearly 600 yards through the air, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a potent Penn State offense as the Cougars fell to the Nittany Lions in the Holiday Bowl, 50-39. In the loss, he completed a career-high 42 passes for 576 yards including touchdowns passes to Andy Boyce and Brent Nyberg.

3. Robbie Bosco, Oct. 19, 1985, New Mexico

Bosco had his biggest passing day as a Cougar on a day where the Cougar overcame a sluggish start to beat New Mexico, 45-23. In the road win, he completed 42 of 61 passes for 585 yards and touchdown passes of 13, 18, 22 and 31 yards. Trevor Molini was the recipient of two of the scoring throws while Kelly Smith and Scott Norberg each added a touchdown catch.

2. Ty Detmer, Nov. 16, 1991, San Diego State

Detmer’s most prolific passing performance came in a legendary comeback that ended in a 52-52 tie between the Cougars and the San Diego State Aztecs. In the memorable shootout, he completed 31 of 54 throws for 599 yards including four second-half touchdowns as the Cougars erased a 25-point deficit to level the game at 52.

1. John Walsh, Oct. 30, 1993, Utah State

Walsh showed off his arm talent and produced the biggest passing day in BYU history as the Cougars dropped a 58-56 slugfest to the Utah State Aggies. In the tough loss, he completed 27 of 44 passes for 619 yards and five touchdowns. Four of the five passing scores where longer than 40 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown reception by Tyler Anderson and a 72-yard touchdown catch from Jamal Willis.


5 thoughts on “BYU football: Ranking the most prolific passing performances in Cougar history

  1. 5 wins, 4 losses, 1 tie.

    I thought Sarkisian was on the list for sure. He missed a 9th place tie by 1 yard. He had a few other games in the 400 yard range. Here are a few other honorable mentions:
    Texas AM – Sarkisian 536 yards
    Virginia 2000 – Engeman 447 yards
    Houston 2013 – Hill 417 yards
    Mississippi 2001 – Doman 390 yards
    Air Force 2009 – Beck 383 yards


    1. John Beck graduated in 2006. Was that supposed to be a different year or did Max Hall put up 383 on Air Force in 09?


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