Cotton Bowl

1997

 

BYU 19

Kansas St. 15

BYU Fight Song

 

The Southwestern Bell era at the Cotton Bowl couldn’t have asked for a better start. An absolutely dazzling, sunny day with temperatures in the 70s greeted a sellout crowd of 71,928 for one of the most exciting games in the Classic’s 61-year history. For Brigham Young and Kansas State, it was a day to celebrate. After years of waiting, these two programs finally landed a New Year’s Day bowl invitation (video). The weather and an enthusiastic crowd created a festive atmosphere, but the drama was provided exclusively by two excellent teams that battled all the way to the game’s final play before BYU pulled out a 19-15 thriller.

Under coach Bill Snyder, No. 14 Kansas State was an emerging power from the Big 12 Conference. K-State brought a 9-2 record to Dallas and it marked the fourth consecutive year the Wildcats had won nine or more games. Along with them came a purple wave of more than 40,000 diehard fans, a figure that shattered the Classic’s old ticket sales record for one team. BYU, on the other hand, was a recognized offensive power from the Western Athletic Conference. With the Cougars, coach LaVell Edwards had established a program known for a flashy, quick striking offense. At 13-1, pass-happy BYU was headed for the NCAA record book for games played. The Classic would be the Cougars’ 15th game of the year, and if it could get by the Wildcats, BYU would set another record for most victories in a single season with 14. The stage was set for an outstanding matchup (video). K-State owned the nation’s fourth best pass defense. BYU would counter with quarterback Steve Sarkisian, the nation’s leading passer and the leader of the NCAA’s sixth most productive offense. It was obvious; a big-game atmosphere was brewing at the Southwestern Bell Cotton Bowl.

At kickoff, it was the BYU defense, not the offense, that roared onto the field. Cornerback Tim McTyer picked off a K-State pass midway through the first quarter and returned the interception 19 yards to the Wildcat 36. BYU was unable to capitalize, but the turnover allowed the Cougars to establish field position with a punt that pinned Kansas State on its two-yard line. This, in turn, set up one of the biggest plays of the day. On second down at the three, BYU linebacker Shay Muirbrook crashed through to sack quarterback Brian Kavanagh in the end zone for a safety. It was the first of a record six sacks on the day for Muirbrook, and the play pushed the Cougars to an early 2-0 lead. Following the free kick, BYU got back onto the scoreboard when Ethan Pochman banged through a 39-yard field goal. At the end of the first quarter both teams found themselves locked in a defensive struggle, and it appeared that BYU's 5-0 lead might hold up through halftime. But, with just five seconds to play in the half, Kavanagh unleashed a 41-yard Hail Mary pass with hopes of finding Kevin Lockett, the Cats' All-America receiver, waiting for it to come down in the end zone. Lockett was swarmed by BYU defenders trying to bat the ball away. But standing in the right spot at the right time was Andre Anderson who alertly dove for the deflected pass just before it fell to the ground. Time had expired, yet the Wildcats had scored the game’s first touchdown. Mike Lawrence added a two-point conversion run and Kansas State headed to the locker room in front for the first time, 8-5.

The Hail Mary seemed to invigorate the Wildcats. They began the second half with Kavanagh guiding K-State to another score. Again, the target was Lockett who raced down the sideline with a 72-yard touchdown pass that increased the Wildcat lead to 15-5. BYU’s high-powered offense continued to struggle as the game moved to the fourth quarter. Sarkisian was desperate to turn the momentum back toward BYU. With 10:55 on the clock, he succeeded, finding James Dye streaking into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown. The score closed the gap to 15-12. Two possessions later, Sarkisian was on the move again, and drove the Cougars 60 yards in five plays, ending with a 28-yard touchdown strike to K.O. Kealaluhi that proved to be the game-winner. BYU climbed back on top, 19-15, and the clock was down to 3:39.

Now, the pressure reverted back to Kansas State. Starting from the 28, Kavanagh and Lockett went to work on a 13-play drive that would carry them to the BYU 12. A second down play at the Cougars’ 17 almost resulted in a touchdown when Lockett grabbed a pass in the back of the end zone, but BYU’s McTyre made sure the catch wouldn’t count by knocking the K-State receiver out of the field of play.
 

Fate was beginning to shine on the Cougars. Four plays later, with the ball at the 12, Kavanagh looked for Jimmy Dean over the middle. BYU cornerback Omarr Morgan read the play perfectly and stepped inside to intercept Kavanagh at the three. Only 55 seconds were left to play and all the Cougars had to do to gain their biggest victory of the season was for Sarkisian to simply fall on the ball and kill the clock.

 

Kavanaugh on the run.

Sarkisian hit as he throws.

 

BYU had six sacks.

Kealaluhi beats K-State's Lamar Chapman for the win.

 

For Edwards, a New Year's Day Bowl victory.

 

Attendance- 71,928

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
BYU- Kavanagh tackled for safety by Muirbrook
BYU- FG Pochman 39

Second Quarter
KSU- Anderson 41 pass from Kavanagh (Lawrence run)

Third Quarter
KSU- Lockett 72 pass from Kavanagh (Rheem kick)

Fourth Quarter
BYU- Dye 32 pass from Sarkisian (Pochman kick)
BYU- Kealaluhi 28 pass from Sarkisian (Pochman kick)

Individual Statistics

Rushing
KSU- Lawrence 23-54, Anderson 1-5 , Kavanagh 8-(-18)
BYU- Johnson 6-38, McKenzie 9-17, Kealaluhi 1-15

Passing
KSU- Kavanagh 14-28-233
BYU- Sarkisian 21-36-291

Receiving
KSU- Lockett 7-135, Grosdidier 3-26, Anderson 2-50, Dean 2-22
BYU- Lewis 5-79, McGuire 5-51, Dye 4-70, Johnson 3-23, Kealaluhi 2-37

 

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