Five Most Impactful Losses in BYU Football History

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#1 – 1985 vs UCLA

This game hurts for many reasons.  How can I list the reasons without breaking my keyboard in frustration?  BYU entered a sold out Cougar Stadium on September 7th, 1985 as defending National Champions and riding a 25 game winning streak—the longest in the nation at the time.  They had previously defeated Cotton Bowl champion Boston College in the Kickoff Classic the week prior.  Their next opponent was the UCLA Bruins, a team that was anxious to dethrone the national champions.  This was a very good UCLA team, who would go on to finish the 1985 season at 9-2-1, PAC-10 champions, Rose Bowl Champions, and a final ranking of #6.  A win over UCLA would be very impressive for BYU and would add credibility to their national title defense.  However, the Bruins had upset on their mind, and were eager to steal a victory in the Cougar’s home opener.  As fate would have it, another Pac-10 opponent would spoil BYU’s season.

This is one of those games where you look at the final stat line and wonder how BYU lost.  The explosive Cougar offense led by quarterback Robbie Bosco had outgained UCLA 406-284 in total yards.  UCLA did not score an offensive touchdown until the final minute of the game, which would ultimately be the game winner.  The other touchdown by the Bruins came in the 1st quarter—a Robbie Bosco interception returned 65 yards for a touchdown.  That interception was 1 of 5 turnovers for the Cougars, which UCLA graciously capitalized on.  In the end, the Bruins would add four field goals off 4 turnovers.  Despite the costly mistakes, BYU would continue to dominate the Bruins defensively and eventually regain the lead late in the 4th quarter after a Bosco touchdown run.  That lead would be short-lived for the Cougars.  On the Bruins next possession, they would capitalize on a blown coverage play by BYU defensive back Jeff Sprowls, and convert a 62 yard bomb to wide open UCLA receiver Mike Sherrard.  The Bruins would punch it in from a few yards out on the next play and take a 27-24 lead with a minute left in the game.  A last chance effort by Robbie Bosco would end in yet another interception, and that’s your ball game folks.

What if…  Let’s just cut to the chase here.  If Robbie Bosco and the Cougars can take care of the ball, and Jeff Sprowls doesn’t give up the big pass play late in the game, then BYU walks out a winner.  They extend their winning streak to 26 games.  They go on to dominate Washington a week later—ending all controversy of 1984.  They proceed to run the table and finish the 1985 season undefeated and can compete for another National Title.  I can already hear BYU fans asking, “What about the UTEP game?!”  Some may argue that the loss to UTEP in 1985 was more impactful than the UCLA loss.  The UTEP loss doesn’t mean anything to me other than embarrassment.  Following the UTEP debacle, BYU would proceed to roll through their conference schedule, win another WAC title, beat Utah, and play in the Citrus Bowl vs. Ohio State.  However, if BYU beats UCLA in 1985, I would argue that a loss to the 1-10 Miners would never have happened.  BYU would have not allowed that game to be lost.  Had BYU defeated UCLA, they would have entered El Paso with a 31 game winning streak.  With a repeat of a national title on the line, I cannot foresee BYU allowing UTEP to win that game.  Imagine the impact that the loss to UCLA had on the 1985 season.  A win over the Bruins, and the Cougars could have possibly ended the regular season on a 37 game winning streak dating back to the loss at Baylor in 1983.  Now are you beginning to comprehend the impact that the loss at Baylor had?  Here comes the ultimate “what-if”… Had BYU defeated Baylor in 1983 and UCLA in 1985, the Cougars may be looking at three straight seasons in which they are eligible for shares of the national title.  Somebody wake me up, I must be either dreaming or suffering from delusions.  It’s not really fair to calculate all of these what-if’s, because speculating doesn’t change the past.  But at this point, it’s all I can do as a wishful BYU football fan.

Honorable Mentions:

1979 Indiana – Even if BYU wins and finishes undefeated in 1979, they would not have even received a share of the national title. 

1980 New Mexico – Same deal.  If BYU beats New Mexico to open the 1980 season, they were not yet recognized as a school who would be worthy of a national title. 

1999 Virginia – If BYU beats UVA, they would be 9-0 and highly ranked by the time they play Wyoming late in the season.  However, losses to Wyoming, Utah, and Marshall in the Motor City Bowl would expose the actual potential of this team. 

2001 at Hawaii – Even if BYU beats Hawaii and finishes the regular season 13-0, they were still slated to play in the Liberty Bowl against Louisville.  BYU would end up losing to the Cardinals 28-10.

2008 at TCU – The Horned Frogs were by far the superior team in this game.  BYU was dominated from start to finish and there are no excuses.  However, if BYU wins, they are undefeated and highly ranked entering the Holy War vs. Utah.

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