Over the past 40 years, BYU ranks among the top 5 programs in the country for wins. With a rich football tradition and so many great games and talented players to come through the program, we decided to rank the biggest upsets in BYU football history. So where does BYU’s win over No. 6 Wisconsin rank? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
1. Miami Hurricanes (1990)
BYU opened the season with a home opener against No. 1 Miami in front of a then-record crowd of 66,235. Behind a great performance behind Ty Detmer – which kicked off his Heisman campaign – the Cougars knocked off the Hurricanes 28-21 on national television and ruined Miami’s bid to win back-to-back titles.
“I’ve never been in anything like that before,” Detmer said after the game. “I was just trying to high-five everybody. I took more hits going in (to the locker room) than I did the whole game.”
2. Wisconsin Badgers (2018)
Considering the Cougars just knocked off then-No. 6 Wisconsin on the road, this pick was pretty easy choice and was not based on current emotions. The fact that BYU was a three touchdown underdog and was coming off one of its worst seasons in program history – on top of losing 40-6 against Wisconsin at home last year – nobody gave the Cougars much of a chance on Saturday.
But that is what made the win so sweet for Cougar fans. Wisconsin was picked by many to be in the College Football Playoff and was a darkhorse to win it all behind three preseason AP All-American offensive lineman and star running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor, was held to just 4.5 yards per carry compared to BYU’s Squally Canada who averaged 10.7 yards per carry in Saturday’s win.
With the game played on national television, the Cougars put on an absolute show and were rewarded with tons of media attention. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake told reporters that he had received hundreds of text messages after the game, and that he answered every one of them back, including current NFL head coach Andy Reid.
3. Oklahoma Sooners (2009)
It was the first game inside the new billion-dollar stadium for the Dallas Cowboys and BYU made sure to leave its mark in the Top-25 matchup. Going up against No. 3 Oklahoma, the Sooners came in with the Heisman Trophy quarterback in Sam Bradford and star running back DeMarco Murray.
Despite being heavy underdogs, BYU pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season as quarterback Max Hall threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to McKay Jacobson with just over three minutes to play to give No. 20 BYU, a 14-13 victory over No. 3 Oklahoma.
In front of a nationally televised audience, the game was a classic. Hall finished the game with 329 passing yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
4. Pittsburgh Panthers (1984)
Coming into the season unranked, Cougar fans expected the 1984 season to be a rebuilding year with the departure of the legendary quarterback Steve Young.
However, BYU shocked the world as they took down No. 3 Pittsburgh on the road which helped set the tone for BYU’s 1984 national championship run. The game also featured the first live ESPN College Football broadcast and the Cougars did not disappoint.
While the season featured the Cougars claiming its first No. 1 ranking in school history, as impressive as it was, the Cougars were regularly a Top 15 team before 1984 and were already considered by many to be a powerhouse. The same can’t be said for the 2009 and 2018 BYU teams which is why this upset check in at No. 4 all-time.
5. Texas Longhorns (2013)
Headlines called it a humiliating loss.
Texas, one of the biggest powerhouses in all of college football had one of its worst showing in program history as the No. 15 Longhorns were stunned in a 40-21 road loss to BYU at LaVell Edwards Stadium in 2013.
The Cougars racked up a team-record 550 yards rushing, including 259 yards and three rushing touchdowns on just 17 carries for BYU quarterback Taysom Hill. The loss was so bad, that Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was fired. Having gone Independent in 2011, the win over Texas was the biggest victory in the Independence era for the Cougars prior to Saturday’s win over then-No. 6 Wisconsin.