BYU holds the edge 28-7-1. What is the one tie you ask? I am glad you did.
Turn back the clocks to November 16, 1991 (it’s easy for me, since that is the day I was born). BYU and San Diego State were both volleying for the WAC championship and a spot in the coveted Holiday Bowl, which would be played on the Aztecs’ home soil.
The Aztecs were gearing up for a big moment in school history. They had only won the WAC title once and played in the 1986 Holiday Bowl, losing to Iowa. This was another opportunity for them to perform on the big stage. They needed to beat BYU to earn the title and the spot.
For BYU, they were risking losing their stronghold on the Holiday Bowl, the game they had played two years in a row to that point and nine times total.
Things started out very well for those who were rooting for the Aztecs to punch their ticket to the big bowl. SDSU led 35-17 at the half. That lead swelled to 45-17 in the middle of the third quarter. Things looked bleak for the Cougars and SDSU was all smiles on their sidelines.
Then, before what was then a record crowd of 56,737 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, BYU began their ascent up the mountain to a massive comeback. Ty Detmer connected with Jamal Willis for a 49-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 45-24. BYU got an interception, which led to another quick touchdown, from Detmer to Byron Rex.
Now SDSU began to sweat a little, with their lead down to two touchdowns heading into the fourth quarter.
The Cougars forced a punt and Detmer and company marched down again, ending the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Peter Tuipulotu. This cut BYU’s deficit to just seven with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter.
San Diego State was able to stop the bleeding briefly, with a David Lowery touchdown pass. This once again put the Aztecs up by 14 at 52-38. Detmer and the offense responded in kind with another quick touchdown drive, making the score 52-45.
SDSU summoned another drive into BYU territory and attempted a field goal with less than three minutes left, which wobbled right and no good. This gave the Cougars one last chance to tie it with just over two and a half minutes left in the game.
Detmer did what Detmer does best, orchestrating an efficient, surgical drive with the help of Tuipulotu. With the ball at the SDSU 5 yard line, Willis got the handoff and basically walked into the end zone untouched, tying the game and capping a miraculous comeback.
The game ended in a 52-52 tie after BYU’s defense snuffed out one last gasp by SDSU, leaving the Aztecs stunned. They had held a 45-17 lead in the second half only to watch BYU go on a 35-7 run on the way to the tie.
Holiday Bowl officials entered the BYU locker room among the frenzy after the game and officially invited the Cougars to their prestigious bowl game.
BYU ended up becoming WAC champions along with the bowl invite, snubbing SDSU.
The Cougars ended up tying a second game that year, earning a draw with Iowa in that well-earned Holiday Bowl.
The stats from that game are something out of NCAA Football on your PlayStation 3. Detmer finished with 599 yards passing and six touchdowns. SDSU’s signal caller Lowery also eclipsed the 500-yard mark.
Running back Jamal Willis did a little bit of everything, tallying 71 rushing yards, 163 receiving yards and three total scores.
On the other side, future Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk ran wild for the Aztecs, to the tune of 235 yards and four total touchdowns.
Scott Giles and Randy Brock had two sacks each on defense for the Cougars.
The two offenses combined for a staggering 1,462 yards.
Detmer will always be remembered first for winning the Heisman in 1990 and beating Miami that season. However, not too far down the list should be this epic comeback on that late autumn night in San Diego.