It doesn’t happen very often in life and rarely do we see it on the football field. But to BYU’s credit, the squad pulled it off. The Cougars honored the late LaVell Edwards Saturday night at Stanford with a clean performance, a performance the program hadn’t seen since his debut season as head coach in 1972 — no penalties, no turnovers.

The 35-26 victory is a timely anniversary gift as the Cougars (7-5) wrapped up the 2022 regular season commemorating the 50th year since then school President Dallin H. Oaks hired Edwards for the job.

BYU ran the ball 50 times for 358 yards Saturday night without a fumble, a false start or a holding penalty and Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee threw 40 passes into the Cougars secondary without a defensive infraction.

Combined with the Cardinal, there were 123 plays from scrimmage without a single flag thrown against BYU — a performance that was five decades in the making and shouldn’t be lost by the late hour or the overly stuffed weekend of games.

Mistakes, and the lack thereof, was also the name of the game for the BYU men’s basketball team playing 2,616 miles to the south of Stanford in The Bahamas.

The Cougars committed a season-low 11 turnovers in their come-from-behind victory against Dayton on Friday in the Battle 4 Atlantis holiday tournament.

Just as penalty- and turnover-free football allowed BYU to build a 23-point lead at Stanford, doing the opposite put coach Mark Pope’s Cougars in a hole (32-9) in the first half against the Flyers.

BYU dug in, cleaned things up and fought back, shooting 57.6% from the field after halftime to pull off a stunning 79-75 overtime victory. The comeback was the Cougars’ (4-3) largest since rallying from 25 down to beat Iona in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Whether the performance will be a catalyst for better days ahead remains to be seen, but BYU has games against Westminster (Tuesday, 7 p.m. MST, BYUtv) and South Dakota (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., BYUtv) at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City and Utah Valley in Provo next Wednesday to get better before facing No. 10 Creighton in Las Vegas on Dec. 10.

With no fewer than 25 games to play, limiting mistakes will be paramount for Pope’s team that plays with a big heart, but is noticeably smaller than opponents. As Kalani Sitake prepares for the football program’s 40th bowl appearance, curtailing penalties and turnovers will be just as critical for his success.

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A lot has changed since Edwards was hired by BYU in 1972 when gas was 36 cents a gallon, a Big Mac cost 65 cents and the median price of a home was $30,000. Today, gas is $3.93 a gallon, a Big Mac costs $3.99 and the average home price in America is $351,100.

Seismic change has come over the years for the Cougars, too. Under Edwards, BYU won 257 games, including the 1984 national championship. He built a foundation and national reputation that has boosted athletics on campus one way or another.

This week’s anticipated announcement of BYU’s first Big 12 schedule is the crown jewel of Edwards’ work, the culmination of every touchdown pass his program ever produced in and out of a stadium that bears his name.

Edwards did it without being perfect. None of us are. To his credit, he found a way to make a school outside a power conference as relevant as those who were in one — and he did it while coaching a clean game — just like the Cougars gave him posthumously on Saturday night.

BYU’s coach Mark Pope high-fives fans after beating the Nicholls State Colonels at the Marriott Center on Nov. 19, 2022.
BYU’s coach Mark Pope high-fives fans after beating the Nicholls State Colonels at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. The Cougars overcame a 23-point deficit to defeat Dayton last week. | Ben B. Braun, Deseret News
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