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Top 10 BYU victories in the LaVell Edwards era

LaVell Edwards revolutionized BYU football, turning the once-moribund program into a national contender and leading the team to the national championship in 1984.

On Thursday, Edwards, the Cougars' head coach from 1972-2000, died at the age of 86. He leaves behind a storied legacy.

Here’s a look at the top 10 BYU wins in the Edwards era. Each game was weighed using three criteria: how that game impacted the season, what it meant to Edwards' legacy and importance on a national level.

10. 2000: BYU 34, Utah 27

Like so many victories in his illustrious time at BYU, Edwards’ team had to rally in the final game of his career.

Though the Cougars led 26-13 heading into the fourth quarter, Ron McBride’s Utes fought back and took the lead on a 20-yard TD pass to Matt Nickel with 2:16 to play.

On the ensuing possession, BYU faced a fourth-and-13 before quarterback Brandon Doman hit receiver Jonathan Pittman for two straight 30-yard passes. Doman then scored from 4 yards out with 23 seconds left, and the BYU defense held on.

It was a fitting end to a Hall of Fame career.

9. 1983: BYU 37, UCLA 35

During its most successful run in school history, the Cougars won 25 straight games from 1983-85. That included BYU topping the Bruins in the Rose Bowl.

The Cougars jumped out to a 14-0 lead and led by as many as 13 in the second half to beat the Bruins. Todd Shell led the defensive effort with 13 tackles and four sacks, while Steve Young threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns.

The victory, BYU’s third that year, helped jump-start that win streak that vaulted the Cougars to a national championship the next year.

8. 1996 WAC championship: BYU 28, Wyoming 25

With hopes of earning a berth in a prestigious Bowl Alliance bowl still alive, the Cougars faced Wyoming in the inaugural WAC championship game in Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium.

The Cowboys gave the Cougars all they could handle. BYU marched out to a 13-0 lead, only to have tight end Itula Mili go down with an injury and watch Wyoming rally to lead twice, including 25-20 late in regulation.

After the Cowboys took an intentional safety, Ethan Pochman hit a 20-yard field goal at the end of regulation. The Cougars' defense held Wyoming scoreless to start overtime, and Pochman delivered the game-winner on a 32-yard field goal.

7. 1979: BYU 18, Texas A&M 17

This was one of Edwards’ marquee victories early in his career, against a Texas A&M team that was ranked No. 14 entering the game. The Aggies led 14-3 before BYU rallied.

The Cougars won their season-opener, sparking an 11-0 regular season, when quarterback Marc Wilson hit Clay Brown for a 3-yard touchdown, then connected with Mike Lacey for a two-point conversion in the one-point win.

It turned out to be a signature victory that helped spur BYU’s success in the 1980s.

6. 1996 Pigskin Classic: BYU 41, Texas A&M 37

The Cougars exacted some revenge on Texas A&M with a victory in the Pigskin Classic in a thriller at BYU’s home stadium, kicking off a top 5 season.

The Cougars rallied from a 20-6 second-quarter deficit to force a back-and-forth game in the second half before Steve Sarkisian hit K.O. Kealaluhi for the game-winner, a 46-yard pass with 1:03 remaining.

Sarkisian threw for 536 yards and six touchdowns as BYU kicked off a 14-1 season, the most wins in a single season in school history.

5. 1997 Cotton Bowl: BYU 19, Kansas State 15

The final great season in a career full of them for Edwards ended with BYU’s first Jan. 1 bowl game.

The Cougars, after leading 5-0, fell behind 15-5 to the Wildcats before rallying. Sarkisian’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Kealaluhi put BYU ahead 19-15 and Omarr Morgan intercepted a pass inside the 5 with under a minute to play as the Cougars topped their Big 12 opponent.

With the win, BYU finished the year with a 14-1 record and ranked No. 5 in both major polls.

4. 1984: BYU 20, Pittsburgh 14

The Cougars’ march to a national title began on this day in Pennsylvania.

The Panthers entered the game ranked No. 3 in the country and led 14-3 in the third quarter. But behind quarterback Robbie Bosco, making his first start, the Cougars came back to score the game’s final 17 points.

Bosco hit Adam Haysbert for a 50-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give the Cougars the lead and the win, which spurred BYU to its national championship season.

3. 1980 Holiday Bowl: BYU 46, SMU 45

Edwards’ team delivered one of the greatest comebacks in college football history as the Cougars rallied from 20 points down with under 4:07 remaining to topple the Mustangs.

Jim McMahon led BYU on three straight touchdown drives, culminating in a Hail Mary, 41-yard touchdown pass from McMahon to Clay Brown as time expired to knot the score at 45-45. Kurt Gunther’s extra point gave the Cougars the margin for victory.

BYU needed the win, as the Cougars were winless in bowls at 0-4 heading into the 1980 game, their third straight trip to the Holiday Bowl.

2. 1984 Holiday Bowl: BYU 24, Michigan 17

With a chance at the school’s first national championship on the line, the Cougars, at 12-0, headed to San Diego to face Michigan in the Holiday Bowl.

Top-ranked BYU received a stiff test from the Big Ten’s Wolverines, who entered the game with a 6-5 record. The Cougars were dealt a blow early when quarterback Robbie Bosco went down with a knee injury.

With a hobbled Bosco, BYU fell behind early in the fourth quarter, 17-10. But the Cougars rallied with two touchdowns, first on a leaping 7-yard grab from Glen Kozlowski and secondly on a 13-yard Kelly Smith TD catch, to take a 24-17 lead before BYU’s defense held.

When the polls came out, the win was enough to keep the Cougars at the top and earn the school’s lone national title.

1. 1990: BYU 28, Miami 21

This is Edwards’ finest coaching moment, as his Ty Detmer-led team upset the No. 1-ranked team in Provo.

The Hurricanes, the defending national champions, were 13½-point favorites when they headed to then-Cougar Stadium to face BYU. With fans wearing Heisman “Tys,” the Cougars rallied from an early 7-0 deficit and overcame five turnovers to lead 17-14 at halftime.

Detmer threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 7-yard pass to Nick Salido in the third quarter, in a win that vaulted him to winning the Heisman Trophy that year.

The Cougar defense turned away the Miami defense twice in the fourth quarter to prevent the Hurricanes from rallying, sealing the victory.

Other top wins in the Edwards era:

1984: BYU 18, Hawaii 13. Safety Kyle Morrell leaped over the center at the snap with Hawaii yards away from a touchdown, helping the Cougars pull out a road win over the Rainbow Warriors, a critical victory in the national championship season.

1983 Holiday Bowl: BYU 21, Missouri 17. A halfback pass from Eddie Stinnett to quarterback Steve Young for a 14-yard touchdown in the final minute rallied BYU to the victory to cap an 11-1 season.

1994: BYU 21, Notre Dame 14. The Cougars earned their only win thus far at the Fighting Irish’s famed stadium behind two touchdowns from Jamal Willis, setting up a 10-win season.

1984: BYU 24, Utah 14. The Cougars moved to 11-0 with the win and were ranked No. 1 following the victory, the first time BYU reached the top spot in the polls.

1974: BYU 21, Arizona State 18. The win over the 16th-ranked Sun Devils helped the Cougars win the WAC title, the first of 20 conference titles won by Edwards in his career.

1991: BYU 52, San Diego State 52. BYU rallied from a 28-point deficit to tie the Marshall Faulk-led Aztecs in a wild game that, with the tie, sealed the WAC championship for the Cougars. Detmer threw for 599 yards and six touchdowns in the contest.

1992: BYU 30, Penn State 17. The Cougars upset the No. 14 Nittany Lions in Provo, giving Edwards a victory over another top college coach, Joe Paterno.