It has been 12 years since BYU played on a national ABC broadcast. That streak is set to end for the 2015 season opener when the broadcast network will air the Cougars in Nebraska.
How has BYU done in ABC games that air in front of a big national audience? None of this can predict what will happen, but it's fun to look back and see how the Cougars fared in ABC appearances in the post-WAC era:
2012 vs. #10 Oregon State
This game was only regionally on ABC in the West and on ESPN2 everywhere else, and maybe its a good thing most of the country didn't see Beaver backup Cody Vaz decimate the BYU secondary. To be fair, Oregon State was ranked #10 in the country, but fans hoped for a better result at home. The year previous, BYU mashed the Beavers into submission on the ground, and 2012's defense was a pretty good unit.
But Cody Vaz had zero cares, posting a 180.6 passer efficiency rating by throwing 20-of-32 for 332 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions on the way to a solid win. Oregon State scored first but BYU kept pace as the game entered the fourth quarter tied at 21, but the Cougars matched an OSU touchdown with a field goal and that was essentially it, with Jordan Poyer returning a Riley Nelson pass for a touchdown to ice the game.
2003 at #4 USC
This was BYU's last fully-national ABC broadcast and I look back on this game fondly. The worst team of my BYU football memory played the eventual national champions on the road very, very well. BYU expectedly got down big early as the Trojans raced to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. The Cougars shot themselves in the foot in this quarter, though, and ended up giving USC a cushion which would eventually help the Trojans hang on.
Yes, I said hang on.
As I recall (if any of you remember differently, let me know), USC's first score came as a result of a muffed punt return, giving the Trojans about a 15-yard field. The second USC touchdown came after Colby Bockwoldt, who would go on to earn several good NFL paychecks, hit Matt Leinart late out of bounds after the BYU defense had held USC on third down. The third was an interception return for a TD.
Fast forward to the early fourth quarter and BYU trailed only 21-18. After a safety got the Cougars on the board, Matt Payne blasted a 53-yard field goal before halftime, and repeated that with a 52-yarder to make it a 21-18 game. BYU's only touchdown came in the third quarter when Matt Berry connected with Daniel Coats on a 15-yard score.
USC turned on the juice, however, and punched in two late touchdowns to secure the 35-18 win. It remains a rather bizarre game in my memory. BYU had no business being in the game for a litany of reasons, yet it was a three-point game in the fourth quarter.
2003 at UNLV
Win 27-20 OT
BYU has never lost to UNLV in Las Vegas. The same season as the strange USC game, a 3-5 BYU team traveled to Sam Boyd Stadium for an ABC broadcast game and like the matchup with the Trojans, the Cougars got in a hole early.
A four-yard TD run from Dyante Perkins gave the Rebels a 13-0 lead in the second quarter. Berry threw an eight-yard TD to Toby Christensen and BYU added a pair of field goals from Matt Payne, the second of which was a 50 yarder, to tie it at halftime. I may be wrong, but it feels like Payne hit a 50+-yard field goal every game.
Berry and Christensen connected for a nine-yard overtime TD to win the game, sparing the Cougars from what would have been a three-game losing streak to the Rebels.
2002 at Georgia Tech
BYU has posted three straight convincing wins over Georgia Tech, but the first-ever matchup between the schools was a different story. The Cougars won their opener at home, a convincing 42-21 win over Syracuse, and also nabbed a win over Hawaii before losing the infamous road game in Nevada where BYU bused to the game that morning.
There would be no busing to Atlanta, and BYU responded accordingly. The Cougars led 10-7 after the first quarter and traded scores with the Jackets, with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Lance Pendleton to Reno Mahe giving BYU a 19-14 lead after three quarters. But the humidity seemed to wear BYU down, and GT ground out two fourth-quarter touchdown drives for the 28-19 victory.
2001 at UNLV
BYU was becoming a story in 2001, entering week six with a 3-0 record after byeing for two consecutive weeks. The Cougars had demolished Tulane (70-35), Nevada (52-7), and Cal (44-16) and found their way to a #20 AP ranking, so ABC picked up the road contest in Vegas.
And man, we almost saw the beginning of what could have very easily been a four game losing streak to the U-N-freaking-L-V Rebels.
Joe Haro and Dominique Dorsey combined for 157 rushing yards and the Rebels raced to a 21-10 first quarter lead. Luckily, BYU posted an 18-point second quarter, capped with a 54-yard bomb from Brandon Doman to Rod Wilkerson and a Doman two-point conversion run.
But the drama wasn't over. BYU surrendered 10 straight to UNLV, who took a 31-28 fourth-quarter lead on 22-yard field goal. But Doman was there to save the day, scampering for a 21-yard score and a 35-31 victory.
2000 at #2 Florida State
BYU was excitingly selected to play the Seminoles in the 2000 season opener, the Pigskin Classic in Jacksonville. As the score might indicate, this was never a contest. BYU committed six turnovers and Florida State ran a whopping 108 offensive plays. The Seminoles went on to play for the national championship, which they lost 13-2 to Oklahoma.
2000 at Virginia
Win 38-35 OT
There seems to be an unusual amount of BYU comeback wins in this list, and none were better than the 2000 road contest at Virginia. It was the season opener for Virginia, with BYU having been pasted by Florida State the week previous. Both teams would go on to finish 6-6 and posted an exciting game for a national audience, BYU's second week in a row on ABC.
After an exciting home loss to the Cavs the year previous, BYU got buried in a 21-0 hole this time around. The Cougars would cut the deficit to 21-14 and again to 28-21. But a fourth quarter 67-yard TD dash from Antwoine Womack seemed to be the dagger, putting Virginia up 35-21 in the fourth quarter. Womack finished with 160 rushing yards.
But BYU wasn't done. Bret Engemann, who threw for 447 yards, engineered two scoring drives that both finished with six-yard TD passes, one to Doug Jolley and the tying score to Margin Hooks.
Owen Pochman put through a 26-yard field goal in overtime to give the Cougars the win. BYU outscored Virginia 24-7 after haltime. (BYU and Virginia should always play each other. Always close games.)
1999 vs. Cal
This homecoming matchup was BYU's first-ever with Cal, courtesy of Cal coach Tom Holmoe. It was really a breeze of a game. Kevin Feterik and #24 BYU threw all over the Bears that afternoon. Feterik connected with Jonathan Pittman (41 yards), Tevita Ofahengaue (28 yards), and Margin Hooks (29 yards) to put BYU up 21-0 early in the second quarter.
Feterik threw for six touchdowns that day. An impressive 414-yard, four-touchdown performance was marred by having two interceptions returned for touchdowns (Deltha O'Neal for 19 yards, Damian Marzett for 80) and those scores were the only reason the contest was at all close.
BYU would rise to an 8-1 record and #15 ranking before losing its final three games of the season.