Kenny Cox | Posted: 5 Aug 2023 | Updated: 7 Aug 2023

2023 Fall Camp: Practice 5—BYU Football History and Notables

main image
Camp Helmet 2023
Harvey Fall Camp 2023 Fall Camp Receiver 2023 Fall Camp Jake Retzlaff 2023 Fall Camp Group 2023 Fall Camp Ropati 2023

PROVO, Utah – BYU football wrapped up its first week of fall camp with its fifth practice on Saturday morning. 

Earlier in the week, previews for the season included new associate head coach and defensive coordinator Jay Hill and the safeties, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and the quarterbacks and special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga and specialists group. 

View the 2023 Fall Camp Photo Gallery

Today, review some notables from BYU's rich football history leading up to its first season as a member of the Big 12 Conference. 

  • BYU has played 1,073 games since 1922, with a record of 611-436-26 (.582)
  • BYU won the 1984 National Championship, one of just 42 schools to claim a title.
  • The Cougars rank No. 8 in total wins over the past 50 seasons, winning 431 games. Only Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, Michigan and Penn State have won more. Over the past 11 seasons during BYU’s run as an independent, the Cougars went 99-56, ranking No. 18 in college football in total wins the last 11 years.
  • After attending its 40th bowl game last season, BYU ranks No. 20 in bowl invitations.
  • BYU won the 1980 Holiday Bowl, its first bowl win, behind one of the greatest football comebacks of all-time after trailing 45-25 with just over 4 minutes left in the game to beat SMU 46-45, known as "The Miracle Bowl."
  • The Cougars have also spent 266 weeks in the Associated Press Top 25, ranking No. 36 overall in college football.
  • BYU boasts 23 total conference championships in its history, which ranks No. 15 in college football history.
  • Players at BYU have won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award, Outland Trophy, Sammy Baugh and Davey O’Brien Awards.
  • BYU has had 14 consensus All-Americans and touts seven College Football Hall of Fame members, including legendary head coach LaVell Edwards. BYU has had 84 players earn various All-America honors in its history.
  • Since 1965, 30 Academic All-Americans have earned 36 citations.
  • BYU has 21 players on NFL rosters. In addition, former Cougar offensive lineman Andy Reid coaches the Kansas City Chiefs, winning two Super Bowls leading Kansas City.
  • BYU had three players drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft, including offensive tackle Blake Freeland (4th round, Colts), quarterback Jaren Hall (5th round, Vikings) and wide receiver Puka Nacua (5th round, Rams). BYU has had 152 players drafted by the NFL and another 210 undrafted players receive NFL opportunities. BYU has had 12 first round picks, the most recent being Zach Wilson, who was the No. 2 pick of the New York Jets in the 2021 NFL Draft.
  • BYU has had 46 Cougars in the Super Bowl, including current director of athletics Tom Holmoe and quarterback Steve Young who each won three rings playing playing for the San Francisco 49ers. Holmoe won an additional ring as a coach with 49ers after his playing career was over.
  • The Cougars finished the Independence Era with a record of 99-56. The 99 wins tied for No. 15 in college football over those 12 seasons.
  • Total home games: 487/Home Record: 334-147-6 (.692)
  • Total games at Cougar/LaVell Edwards Stadium: 338/Stadium Record 256-83 (.757)
  • Total road games 526/All-time Road Record 246-261-19 (.486)
  • Total neutral games: 60/All-time Neutral Record 31-28-1 (.525)
  • Total games as an independent: 155/Independent Record 99-56 (.639)
  • Total games in conference: 583/All-time Conf. Record 339-226-18
  • Now a member of the Big 12 Conference, BYU has spent time as an independent (2011-2022) and member of the Mountain West Conference (1999-2010), the Western Athletic Conference (1962-1998), the Mountain States/Skyline Conference (1938-1961) and the Rocky Mountain Faculty Athletic Conference (1922-1937). BYU did not play football during World War II from 1943-45. 

1984 National Champions
After finishing the 1984 season with a perfect 13-0 record, the Cougars were named No. 1 by the Associated Press, the United Press International, Sports Illustrated, CNN-USA Today and the Football Writers of America. BYU head coach LaVell Edwards was selected as the NCAA National Coach of the Year and was invited to visit President Ronald Reagan at the White House.

The perfect season featured several game-saving plays as the Cougars moved their way up the rankings. Quarterback Robbie Bosco connected with wide receiver Adam Haysbert for a 50-yard touchdown pass with 1:37 left to play to take the lead in the season-opening win at No. 3 ranked Pittsburgh.

Safety Kyle Morrell’s timed leap over the center to stop a quarterback sneak short of the goal line gave BYU the momentum they needed to foil Hawai’i’s upset attempt. Tight end David Mills was poked in the eye, but came through with a leaping grab in the end zone to help BYU overcome Wyoming 41-38 in the homecoming game.

The Cougars ascended to the No. 1 spot on Nov. 17 following a 24-14 victory at Utah combined with a Nebraska loss to Oklahoma and a Navy upset over unbeaten and then No. 2 South Carolina. The Cougars maintained their No. 1 ranking heading into the bowl game defeating Utah State 38-13 in the final contest of the regular season.

With a TV blimp in the sky over Jack Murphy Stadium, Bosco left the Holiday Bowl in the first quarter with an ankle injury, but returned late in the second taped up and played in the shotgun to finish the game. BYU trailed 17-10 after Michigan hit a field goal to begin the fourth quarter. The Cougars then took over the game, Bosco completed seven pass attempts to five different receivers and hit wide receiver Glen Kozlowski between two Michigan defenders for the game-tying touchdown.

Michigan threatened to score again, but linebacker Kurt Gouveia sacked the Wolverine quarterback for a 16-yard loss to force a punt. BYU moved the ball 70 yards to the Michigan 13-yard line when Bosco scrambled up the middle, keeping his eyes down field, and found running back Kelly Smith for the game-winning touchdown.

At the end of the season BYU was the only undefeated team in the nation.

Head Coach LaVell Edwards
Edwards, a coaching icon in college football, led the Cougars for 29 seasons from 1972 to 2000. He amassed 257 victories, which ranks seventh in NCAA Division I history. In addition, Edwards led BYU to the 1984 National Championship and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

“I love LaVell Edwards,” said BYU director of athletics Tom Holmoe. “He was a great coach, a wonderful person, a disciple of Christ, a loyal family man and a true friend. LaVell had a pure heart. His example will forever be with me and I will strive to live a life of love as he always did.”

Known for his stoic sideline demeanor and quick-witted humor, Edwards was once labeled by USA Today as a “national coaching treasure.” Beloved not only in coaching circles and all of Cougar Nation, but especially by the many hundreds of players under his tutelage, including current head coach Kalani Sitake who was a fullback and team captain for the Cougars.

In 1972, Edwards assumed command of a BYU program that had won just 173 games over 49 seasons, including just 14 winning seasons. The Cougars had never been to a bowl game and had just one conference championship prior to Edwards’ promotion to head coach. Since then, BYU has won 438 games, been to 40 bowl games and had 43 winning seasons. 

Undaunted by the formidable rebuilding task that lay ahead, Edwards transformed BYU into a national power, pioneering an aggressive and innovative passing attack that led BYU to conference titles in 19 of 29 seasons and an overall record of 257-101-3.

In his first season as the head coach, he led the Cougars to a 7-4 overall record, including a 16-7 win over in-state rival Utah. Just two seasons later, Edwards had the team rolling. The Cougars won the WAC Championship after a 48-20 victory over the Utes and accepted an invitation to the Fiesta Bowl—the team’s first-ever bowl appearance, starting a run of 22 bowls in 29 years. The 1974 season turned out to be the first of 27 straight non-losing seasons.

After recording an 11-1 record in 1979, a 12-1 record in 1980 another 11-win season in 1981, eight more wins in 1982, and 11 additional wins in 1983, Edwards led BYU to a perfect 13-0 season in 1984. Following a 24-17 win over Michigan in the Holiday Bowl, the Cougars were crowned national champions. Not surprisingly, Edwards was named the National Coach of the Year for the second time in his career.

Under his direction, BYU recorded 10 straight conference titles from 1976 through 1985 and played in 17 consecutive bowl games from 1978 until 1994.

On New Year’s Day in 1997, BYU set an NCAA record with 14 victories after winning the Cotton Bowl to cap the 1996 season in a thrilling 19-15 victory over No. 14 Kansas State. BYU finished ranked No. 5 nationally—its highest finish since1984.

Edwards announced his retirement prior to the 2000 season. BYU would honor him by renaming Cougar Stadium, LaVell Edwards Stadium prior to the final home game of the year on Nov. 18. A banner bearing the new name was unveiled in a pregame ceremony conducted by President Gordon B. Hinckley, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A week later BYU gave Edwards one more magic moment. Trailing Utah 27-26 in Salt Lake City with 23 seconds left, quarterback Brandon Doman scored a 7-yard touchdown run to send Edwards out a winner in his final game.

Edwards coached one Heisman Trophy winner, two Outland Trophy recipients, four Davey O’Brien awardees, seven Sammy Baugh Trophy Winners, 31 All-Americans and six College Football Hall of Famers. He was named NCAA District 8 Coach of the Year eight times, Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year in 1979 and AFCA National Coach of the Year in 1984.

Following his coaching career, Edwards served a full-time LDS mission with his wife Patti to New York City from 2002-03. He also served on several committees and boards for various college football awards and governing bodies following his retirement.

The eighth of 14 children, Edwards graduated from Lincoln High School in Orem. He attended Utah State University, where he was an all-conference lineman before serving a two-year commitment in the Army. He and Patti were married for more than 65 years. The Edwards have three children, Ann [Cannon], John and Jim.

The legendary Edwards passed away Dec. 29, 2016 at the age of 86 surrounded by his wife Patti and their family.

Quarterback Factory
Beginning with Virgil Carter in the 1960s and Gary Sheide in the early 1970s, BYU has produced an assembly line of outstanding quarterbacks in Provo that have earned unprecedented success in college and professional football. Twelve BYU quarterbacks have earned at least an honorable mention All-America citation or Academic All-America honors.

The BYU quarterback factory has owned the NCAA record books and have won the Sammy Baugh trophy seven times and the Davey O’Brien four times. BYU has also produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Ty Detmer and many other Heisman Trophy candidates. Quarterbacks Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Ty Detmer have all been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

On seven different occasions, BYU quarterbacks have finished as the NCAA total offense leaders. Three of the top-15 career passing efficiency leaders are from BYU. In the 29 years LaVell Edwards coached at BYU, the Cougars led the nation in passing eight times and finished in the top five 17 times.

More recently, BYU has had John Beck (2003-06), second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins (2007) and No. 3 in school history in passing yards (11,021), Max Hall (2007-09), the winningest quarterback in school history (32-7) and No. 2 in passing yards (11,365), Taysom Hill, one of the most dynamic dual-threats in college football history (2012-16) that passed for 6,935 yards and 2,819 and is the most versatile player in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints, Zach Wilson the No. 2 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft to the New York Jets and Jaren Hall, just picked in the fifth round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2023. 

National Awards
In addition to the quarterback awards, BYU has won a Maxwell Trophy (Ty Detmer, 1990), the Outland Trophy (1986, DL Jason Buck, 1989, OL Mo Elewonibi) and the Doak Walker Award (2001, RB Luke Staley).

Quarterback Ty Detmer took home the Maxwell Award as college football’s best player in 1990. Detmer won the Heisman and Davey O’Brien the same year. The Maxwell Award voting—by college coaches, the media and members of the Maxwell Football Club—had the same order of finish as the Heisman. Detmer had 1,993 points; followed by Raghib “Rocket” Ismail of Notre Dame with 1,385; Eric Bieniemy of Colorado with 747 and Shawn Moore of Virginia with 431.

The Outland Trophy has been awarded annually by the Football Writers Association of America since 1946 to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman. It is named after the late John Outland, an All-America lineman at Pennsylvania in the late 1800s.

Jason Buck, a 6-6, 270-pound defensive lineman from St. Anthony, Idaho, started out as a quarterback and linebacker at Ricks College before coming to BYU in 1985 as a lineman.

Buck led the 1986 Cougars with 218.5 defensive points and registered 26 unassisted tackles, 33 assisted tackles, 13 tackles for losses, 17 quarterback hurries and 12.5 sacks. Buck rode a publicity campaign of “One Buck” dollar bills in leading BYU to an 8-5 record and a berth in the Freedom Bowl in 1986.

Mohammed Elewonibi, a 6-5, 290-pound, offensive lineman from British Columbia, Canada, spent his childhood in his native Nigeria and didn’t play football until after high school at Snow Junior College.

“Mount Mohammed” led BYU to a 10-3 record in 1989 and a berth in the Holiday Bowl. As a senior he graded out four times with perfect pass protection while protecting future Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer.

BYU running back Luke Staley was named the winner of the 2001 Doak Walker Award at the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show. The Doak Walker Award is given annually to college football’s top running back.

Staley, from Tualatin, Oregon, led the nation in scoring (15.5 p/game), yards per carry (8.1 y/carry) and finished the 2001 season ranked third in the nation in rushing, averaging 143.8 yards per game. He helped pace the Cougars to a 12-2 record on the season, scoring a BYU single-season record 28 touchdowns. Staley also set a BYU single-season record 1,582 yards rushing on the season that was just broken by Tyler Allgeier in 2021 with 1,601.

BYU will look to add more pages to its football tradition and history as it enters a new era of Big 12 football in 2023. 

Recent Stories

John Mackey Award 2023 Isaac Rex
Rex named to the Mackey watch list for a third consecutive season

For the third straight year, BYU junior Isaac Rex has been named to the John Mackey Award Watch List, presented…

QB Fall 2023
2023 Fall Camp: Practice 3—OC Aaron Roderick and Quarterbacks Preview

BYU football had its third practice on Thursday afternoon as it continues its first week of fall camp for the 2023…