PROVO — As the BYU players finish finals over the next several days, they are also preparing for a familiar foe in their bowl game a little more than a week away. According to BYUCougars.com, the University of Wyoming is BYU’s third most-played opponent behind only Utah and Utah State. The former WAC/MWC foes will meet for the first time since 2010 in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
BYU leads the overall series 44-30, with three ties and have won the last seven meetings between the two schools. Here is a look back at some of the most memorable games in the 77-game history between the Cougars and Cowboys.
October 9, 1976
BYU won three of the first four games against Wyoming to open LaVell Edwards’ legendary career, with the closest win being 13 points in 1975. In head coach Fred Akers only visit to Provo before leaving for Texas, the Cowboys scored 20 straight points before the Cougars got on the board on a Jeff Blanc touchdown reception to go into halftime trailing 20-7.
After the break, Wyoming quarterback Marc Cousins scored two touchdowns on his way to 171 yards rushing and a nearly insurmountable 34-7 lead in the fourth quarter. The Cougars — led by junior Gifford Nielsen — scored three consecutive touchdowns to pull within 34-29, but the comeback ended there after a failed two point conversion attempt. Nielsen finished with 324 yards passing in the losing effort that saw the Cowboys win for the first time in Provo since 1968.
October 22, 1977
BYU entered the 1977 contest against Wyoming ranked at No. 17 in the AP Poll, but was missing Nielsen as it travelled to Laramie. Sophomore Marc Wilson was making his second start and did just enough to earn the win, leading the Cougars on two scoring drives in the second quarter and the Cowboys trailed 10-0 at halftime.
Wyoming cut the deficit to three points after a Myron Hardeman touchdown run in the third quarter, but that is how the game would end. Wilson’s final stat line was 10 of 26 passing for 96 yards with one touchdown. He also threw six interceptions in the contest. This game also featured freshman Jim McMahon as punter, where he totaled five punts for a 40.4-yard average.
October 13, 1984
After the 1977 matchup, BYU put together a string of three consecutive wins by an average score of 51-15 and ended up winning five of six games from 1978-1983 leading into the 1984 contest. Robbie Bosco and the AP-ranked No. 5 Cougars had their hands full against the Cowboys that October day. After BYU jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the second quarter, Wyoming scored on a 37 yard touchdown from quarterback Scott Runyan and followed that up with an Oliver Davis punt return touchdown and went into the locker room down 21-20.
The Cowboys took their first lead of the game in the third quarter, but the two point conversion attempt failed. After that score, the two teams traded scores with Wyoming leading 38-33 going into the fourth quarter. Bosco connected with David Mills for a 14 yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and the Cougar defense held on for the 41-38 win that kept their undefeated season alive on their way to the national championship. Bosco threw 29 completions for 384 yards through the air, including five touchdowns. His best receiver that day was Mills, who finished with seven catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns.
October 10, 1987
The Cougars and Cowboys met in the sixth game of the 1987 season in what appeared to be an even matchup of two teams with identical 3-2 records. The Cougars appeared ready to protect their home field and jumped out to a 14-0 lead at halftime. Quarterback Craig Burnett led the Cowboys to 29 unanswered points and a 29-14 lead in the fourth, however.
Cougar quarterback Bob Jensen threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns, but also had three interceptions in the bid for the comeback win, which fell just short in a 29-27 loss. Burnett finished the game with 308 yards passing and three touchdowns of his own, and followed that performance up with six straight wins. Cowboys earned their first outright WAC championship since 1968 and a berth in the Holiday Bowl.
October 17, 1992
Following a second consecutive loss in 1988, the Cougars won the next three games in a row against the Cowboys en route to three WAC championships. The Cougars as a team had struggled to a 3-3 record going into the Wyoming game. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Hancock was inserted into the starting role in the fifth game of the season and led the Cougars on a 7-1 run — including a win at Wyoming — before a season-ending injury. Things didn’t look good for BYU, as it fell behind 21-7 at halftime at War Memorial Stadium.
In what turned into be a passing showdown, Hancock led the Cougars to scores on four straight possessions and a 31-21 lead in the fourth quarter. Wyoming scored to pull within three points at 31-28, but the Cougars held on for the win. Hancock finished with 408 yards passing and three touchdowns while his counterpart Joe Hughes threw for 399 yards and two scores. BYU receivers Eric Drage and Otis Sterling each finished with more than 100 yards receiving (135 and 103 respectively) and caught all three of Hancocks’ scoring passes.
December 7, 1996
In one of the best games ever between these two teams, BYU and Wyoming met each other in Las Vegas in the inaugural WAC Championship game. Both teams were fixtures in the polls all season; BYU started 2-1 and then won ten straight to claim the Mountain Division title, while Wyoming started 9-0 before a loss to San Diego State and then finished 10-1. Going into the title tilt, BYU was ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll and Wyoming entered the game at No. 20 in a made-for-TV matchup for the conference crown.
More than 40,000 fans in the stadium and a national audience on ABC saw the Cougars live up to their ranking early as they jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead. Things fell apart for the Cougars in the third quarter as Wyoming's Jay Jenkins returned a Cougar fumble 25 yards for a touchdown to pull within 13-7. A Cowboy field goal late in the third and a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback David Sharaf gave Wyoming its first lead at 17-13 in the fourth quarter. Steve Sarkisian led the Cougar offense down the field in response and took the lead on a thirteen yard touchdown pass to Chad Lewis, but Sharaf answered again to give Wyoming a 25-20 lead.
After the Cougars failed to convert on fourth and goal with about three minutes left in the game, the Cowboys intentionally took a safety with 1:56 to play and a 25-22 lead. The following punt was kicked high and the BYU receiver dropped the ball at his own 40 yard line, but recovered the fumble to give BYU great field position. Sarkisian led the offense to the Wyoming three yard line where Ethan Pochman kicked a 20 yard field goal as time expired to force overtime. A Henry Bloomfield sack on first down put the Cowboys in a long field goal situation which missed inches to the left. BYU’s offense played conservative with three consecutive run plays before Ethan Pochman made his fourth field goal of the day — this time a 32-yarder — to cap the win and earn BYU its first New Year’s Day Bowl invite to the Cotton Bowl.
October 23, 2010
The next 14 years were pretty uneventful between BYU and Wyoming, with the Cougars winning 10 of 12, including seven straight from 2004 until the last meeting between the two in 2010. When the Cowboys came to Provo, the Cougars were 2-5 and in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time under head coach Bronco Mendenhall. BYU jumped out to a 16-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and appeared to be in control of the game.
A Jake Heaps interception was returned 55 yards for a touchdown by Cowboy linebacker Keith Lewis and a 44-yard field goal made the score 16-10 at halftime. BYU’s offense struggled in the third quarter, only able to score a field goal. After quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels led the Cowboys to a touchdown that cut BYU's lead ti 25-20. Wyoming regained possession and a chance to grab the win, forcing the Cougar defense into a position where it had to come up big. The defense bent but didn’t break as the Cowboys got down to the Cougar 25 yard line, the game was in doubt until freshman Kyle Van Noy batted down a Carta-Samuels fourth down pass with only 16 seconds in the game to preserve the victory. This win helped BYU get to six wins on the season and a New Mexico Bowl invite.
Landon Walters studied history and political science at Salt Lake Community College. He is an avid sports fan and loves writing. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org