BYU Football: Top 3 Greatest Cougar Teams of All Time
We interrupt this period of conference realignment, independence ditching and utter college football organizational mayhem to bring you an article that celebrates and remembers the best three BYU football teams of all time.
BYU’s football program has produced its share of memorable moments and impressive talent over the years. Plenty of former Cougars have gone on to professional football careers, but only Steve Young can add Hall of Famer to his resume.
Does that mean his 1981-83 squads rank on this short list of all-time best Cougar teams? Well, his teams did go 11-2, 8-4 and 11-1 during his three-season college career in Provo, but you’ll have to stay tuned to see if any of them made the cut.
Hint: Bronco Mendenhall was not at the helm of any of the greatest BYU football teams on this list.
No. 3: 1979 Cougars (11-1)
The 1979 BYU football team was nearly the first undefeated team in school history, suffering its only loss in the 1979 Holiday Bowl, 38-37, to Indiana. The Cougars averaged 40.6 points per game that season, allowed only 11.4 per game and nearly doubled its opponents’ total offensive output with 521.4 yards per game while allowing 268.6 per game.
Marc Wilson was the quarterback that season, amassing 3,720 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air. Wilson’s favorite targets included Homer Jones (46 catches, 404 yards, four touchdowns), Eric Lane (39 catches, 477 yards, one touchdowns) and Scott Phillips (34 catches, 467 yards, four touchdowns).
Unlike a certain BYU team that followed, the 1979 squad did not have a shot at the national title even though it was undefeated heading into its bowl game. The Cougars entered the bowl season ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press poll. Even a bowl win and perfect record wouldn’t have resulted in the national title for this all-time great Cougars team.
No. 2: 1984 Cougars (13-0) National Champions
This team was stacked with future pro talent. Eventually, 18 players who were on the 1984 BYU national championship team were drafted into the NFL.
The 1984 season started off with a bang with a season-opening upset of No. 3 Pittsburgh that catapulted the Cougars to No. 13 in the following week’s poll. The 1984 Cougars averaged 36 points per game and allowed just 13.8.
The Cougars offense averaged 486.5 yards of total offense per game and surrendered 321.3 yards per game.
Robbie Bosco led the Cougars offense that season, throwing for 3,875 yards and 33 touchdowns. Tight end Dave Mills led the team in receiving with 60 catches for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns. Glen Kozlowski was another of Bosco’s favorite targets, making 55 catches for 879 yards and nine touchdowns.
Yes, the 1984 BYU football team accomplished something no other Cougars squad has been able to duplicate, but even a national championship doesn’t qualify it as the best team to represent BYU.
No. 1: 1996 Cougars (14-1)
The 1996 BYU football team won more games in a season than any other Cougars team, including a season-opening win over No. 13 Texas A&M and a postseason victory over No. 14 Kansas State in the 1997 Cotton Bowl.
When the dust settled, the Cougars were ranked No. 5 in the final AP poll, one of only five Division I teams to lose one game that season.
A junior college transfer out of El Camino College in southern California, Steve Sarkisian led the Cougars offense that season, compiling 4,027 yards and 33 touchdowns through the air, leading a Cougars offensive attack that averaged 40.8 points per game.
K.O. Kealaluhi (49 catches, 901 yards, eight touchdowns), Itula Mili (46 catches, 692 yards, three touchdowns) and Kaipo McGuire (42 catches, 658 yards, five touchdowns) were Sarkisian’s top targets that season.
There you have it, Cougar Nation, sweet memories from seasons gone by. With the mess that is independence and potential conference affiliations, it's nice to sit back and remember the good ol' days of BYU football, don't you think?