With the basketball season officially over and the football season still months away from kickoff I thought it might be a good time for us all to remember why we love BYU sports so much in the first place. Now I know that the majority of these clips are from years gone by and I know that Jimmer is never coming back, sadly. But sometimes you just need a little something something to get you through the long dark days otherwise known as the off-season. So without further delay here are the first 5 of my top 10 favorite BYU sports moments of all time...
#10 The 1997 Cotton Bowl
Being all of eight years old at the time I don't know how cognizant I was of what was actually going on, but I do remember this as my first taste of last second BYU magic. In the final minute of the game BYU's defense came up big once again as Omarr Morgan intercepted a Brian Kavanagh pass on the three-yard line to seal BYU's first ever New Year's Day bowl game victory. It was a fitting end to a game that saw BYU's Shay Muirbrook record a Cotton Bowl record six sacks and eleven solo tackles. The stingy Cougar defense kept BYU in the game long enough for quarterback Steve Sarkisian and receivers K.O. Kealaluhi and James Dye to get things going. The Cougars finished the season 14-1 and earned a #5 overall ranking. Not a bad year.
#9 By George I Think He Caught It
The only reason this moment isn't higher on my list is because I, and probably the rest of Cougar Nation, was so completely disgusted with the fact that BYU blew a 14 point in the fourth quarter that I fully expected them to lose in overtime. When Max Hall found Andrew George for a touchdown on BYU's first offensive play, I was a little shell shocked to say the least. The two most enduring memories for me from this game are George's fantastic end zone celebration and the hilarious meme that followed afterwards. It's called tackling...you're doing it wrong. Google that bad boy. Post game it was all about Max Hall. And you know what Max, it's ok, I don't like Utah either.
#8 Riley Nelson's Miracle Drive
I doubt this moment would make most people's Top 25 let alone their Top 10, but it made mine and here's why. Riley Nelson was that guy you loved and hated all at the same time. Well hate is a little strong. I don't know if it was possible to hate him. Hate the sin love the sinner. That might be more accurate. Even when he messed up you still hoped he'd propose to your sister after the game. Now I'm not here to make an argument for or against Nelson and his abilities. This article is about favorite moments and man what a moment this was!
Late in the third quarter of a game that saw BYU trailing Utah State 24-13 at home, Coach Mendenhall pulled then starter Jake Heaps in favor of the more charismatic Nelson. Nelson led the Cougars on their first successful drive since the second quarter with a beautifully thrown 24 yard touchdown pass to Cody Hoffman before watching another promising drive end with a J.J. Di Luigi fumble at the Utah State 26. The Cougar defense was able to clamp down though and BYU got the ball back at their own 4 yard line with a little over two minutes left to play. Nelson marched the offense down the field on a series of short passes and quarterback sneaks before an incompletion brought up a 2nd and 10 from the BYU 34. That's when the miracles started. Nelson took the snap and scrambled backwards to his own 25 before eluding a defender and launching a 40 yard bomb to McKay Jacobson. But there was more to come. Still down by 4 with time running out Nelson dropped back and fired a pass over the middle. The ball was deflected at the goal line, but somehow managed to shoot up and backwards and right into the hands of Marcus Mathews who was streaking across the back of the end zone. 27-24 BYU pulls another rabbit out of the hat!
#7 LaVell's Last Game
This moment has to be on any true blue Cougar fan's list. In the final game of a legendary career, LaVell Edward's Cougars found themselves trailing rival Utah 26-27 with just over a minute to go. Facing a 4th and 13 from his own 10-yard line Brandon Doman took the snap and then made a play that has almost become synonymous with Cougar comebacks. Scrambling backwards to his own five yard line Doman launched up a prayer with a Ute defender bearing down on him. Lo and behold his prayer was answered in the form of Jonathan Pittman and a 47 yard completion. The next play would see Doman and Pittman connect once again. This time for 28 yards. A few plays later Doman would complete the comeback on a 10 yard diving option keeper. The Utes' own Hail Mary attempt was swatted to the ground on their next possession and the Cougars would send LaVell out in style.
#6 Staley and Doman Take Down Utah
It was hard to pick just one moment when it came to these two. Staley in particular was a walking highlight film his junior year. Rushing for close to 1,600 yards and 24 touchdown in only 11 games Staley won the Doak Walker award as the nation's best running and finished his career as arguably the best running back in BYU history. Beating Utah is always a special moment though and the fact that this game was for the Mountain West Title made it even better. Down (again) late in the fourth quarter BYU was able to engineer two scoring drives in a little over two minutes and then hold on for a 24-21 win. The first touchdown came from 15 yards out when Staley got lost in coverage and was able to take an easy pass in for a score while the second came with only 1:21 left in the game as Staley took an option pitch and exploded down the right sideline for 30 yards and a touchdown. If only the rest of the season could have ended the way this game did...