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BYU’s History in NFL Stadiums in The Independence Era

BYU has played a handful of neutral site games NFL stadiums since 2011. How have they fared?

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The independence era of BYU football, starting in 2011, has brought lots of excitement to the program. The Cougars have played on large, national stages as well as in impressive venues. Part of the perks of being independent is the freedom to schedule a variety of teams in various places, including NFL stadiums.

Let’s look back at the eight games BYU has played in an NFL stadium in a neutral setting. Games against San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium or USF in Tampa will not count since they share their permanent home stadium with an NFL team.

2011 vs. TCU (AT&T Stadium- Dallas Cowboys) L, 38-28

BYU has quite the history with what is now called AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. They played the first ever game at the newly christened spectacle (aside from Cowboys preseason games), and the first college team to win at the venue when they upset Oklahoma in 2009. Two years later, they faced off against the Horned Frogs of TCU.

The Cougars fell behind 14-0 early and never recovered. Riley Nelson threw two interceptions and BYU committed three turnovers overall, two of which came at critical times in the red zone. BYU trailed by as much as 25 points before scoring late to make it closer than the game appeared.

2013 vs. Houston (Reliant Stadium- Houston Texans) W, 47-46

BYU and Houston tussled for an epic, offensive fireworks display. Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams were at their healthiest and best. The score was 24-21 in favor of BYU after just one quarter. Houston took a 38-34 lead into halftime.

The defenses stepped up in the second half, especially for BYU. The BYU defense allowed just six points in the second half and the offense took the ball with just under two minutes left, trailing 46-41, Taysom Hill connected with Skyler Ridley for a go-ahead score. BYU hung on thanks to an interception by Alani Fua, foiling Houston’s comeback attempt. All in all, Taysom Hill passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 194 yards in what was his finest individual performance as a BYU Cougar.

2015 vs. Missouri (Arrowhead Stadium- Kansas City Chiefs) L, 20-16

BYU met up with the Missouri Tigers out of the SEC in one of the most iconic venues in the NFL, Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs. Unfortunately, BYU’s offense did not mimic the offenses most crowds at that place witness with Patrick Mahomes at the helm, as most of the night and Mizzou’s defense stifled the offense. The Cougars did not score a touchdown until midway through the third quarter, which gave them a brief 10-6 lead. Drew Lock responded for the Tigers with a touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.

With Mizzou leading 13-10, several drives stalled for the Cougars and the Tigers were able to extend their lead to 20-10. BYU running back Francis Bernard caught a pass by Tanner Mangum to cut the deficit to four, but BYU missed the extra point. BYU got the ball back with a chance to take the lead with five minutes left in the game, but the drive stalled. BYU punted and never got the ball back as Mizzou marched down the field to run out the clock and win the game.

2016 vs. Arizona (University of Phoenix Stadium- Arizona Cardinals) W, 18-16

Kalani Sitake’s debut as BYU’s head coach was a thriller. At first, it was a struggle on offense. BYU scored nine points in the first half and took a 9-0 lead into the locker room. BYU extended their lead to 15-3 in the fourth quarter thanks to a touchdown pass from Taysom Hill.

However, Arizona was not going away quietly. They mounted a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 unanswered points to take a 16-15 lead with just over a minute left in the game. Hill and Jamaal Williams led BYU’s offense down the field and got to the Arizona 16 yard-line with eight seconds left. Freshman kicker Jake Oldroyd nailed the game-winning field goal as time expired, sending the BYU sidelines and fans into a frenzy in the desert.

2016 vs. West Virginia (FedEx Field- Washington Football Team) L, 32-35

BYU took a brief lead against the Mountaineers when Rhett Almond nailed a field goal to go up 10-7. However, due to a pick six, West Virginia got hot to end the second half and went into the half up 21-13. The two offenses traded blows early in the second half.

The Cougars found themselves down 35-19 early in the fourth quarter. They were able to score 13 unanswered points to cut the deficit to three with just under six minutes left to play. Unfortunately, interceptions killed two separate drives for the Cougars, and it doomed their comeback attempt.

2016 vs. Wyoming (Qualcomm Stadium- San Diego Chargers) W, 24-21

In the waning moments of Qualcomm Stadium housing the team formerly known as the San Diego Chargers, BYU took the field in the Poinsettia Bowl against Wyoming. It was sloppy game as heavy rain had just fallen, making the field slick and soggy. Passing yards were at a premium. Tanner Mangum totaled just 96 passing yards all night in his duel with now-NFL standout Josh Allen.

BYU built a 24-7 lead thanks much in part to Jamaal Williams’ effort on the ground. He ended up with a whopping 210 rushing yards. Wyoming stormed back to make the Cougars sweat in the end, before a Kai Nacua interception sealed the win.

2017 vs. LSU (Superdome- New Orleans Saints) L, 27-0

This is certainly a game BYU fans would love to sweep under the rug and pretend that it never existed. LSU outgained BYU 479 to 97 and the Cougars’ offense never crossed the 50-yard line. The game was supposed to be in Houston before a hurricane altered the plans. The setting was impeccable, with the Superdome in New Orleans against one of college football’s most recognizable brands. The result was less than ideal.

2018 vs. UMASS (Gillette Stadium- New England Patriots) W, 35-16

BYU got to play in the venue that has housed an innumerable amount of important games and championship settings, with the Patriots having won six Super Bowls and nine AFC championships. BYU had a slightly easier opponent in UMASS, who is one of the bottom feeders of the FBS level.

The Minutemen actually jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but BYU quickly settled in. Zach Wilson threw two touchdowns and the offense collected nearly 400 yards. The Cougars were up 35-10 before a late UMASS touchdown against the backups.

BYU is an even 4-4 in their neutral site games at NFL stadiums. In 2021, they will get a chance to get over .500 and set the tone for the year and the post-Zach Wilson era against Arizona at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, home of the Raiders.