BYU football will try to end its Sunshine State curse in Tuesday’s bowl game

The Cougars, 10-1, face UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl.

USF Bulls defense celebrates the defensive stop late in the fourth quarter of the game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, October 12, 2019.

Over the course of nearly 50 years, BYU has played in the state of Florida eight times. And lost eight times. Some were bowl game blowouts, others were heartbreakers. One ended in a brawl.

On Tuesday, the Cougars will face the University of Central Florida in the Boca Raton Bowl. Will the Cougars break their Sunshine State curse?

“Why not?” says BYU coach Kalani Sitake.

After all, the Cougars had never won on Boise State’s blue turf before but emerged victorious earlier this season. Plus, they have plenty of fan support in Florida, Sitake said.

“I think we’re going to go out there and try our best, not worry about the history of things,” Sitake said. “There’s always time to change things up and make things work in our favor. If we show at our best and perform at our best, we’ll see what happens.”

Senior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi isn’t sure what it is about playing in Florida that has resulted in loss after loss. Maybe it’s the two-time zone difference. Or maybe the team hasn’t been mentally prepared.

Either way, the Cougars will seek to change their history in Florida.

The first step will be to make sure the guys are locked in, Kaufusi said. He and the other team leaders have been on their teammates about staying focused, getting their sleep, staying hydrated and prepared.

“The sun, the sunshine and the humidity always helps,” Kaufusi said. “I always feel really, really good when I travel and play there, against South Florida and felt really good; easy to breathe, felt like you can run forever. But I definitely think that we need to find that extra kind of gusto within us.”

After a strong season, BYU will look to get its 11th win for the first time since 2009.

“It’s hard to say, but I still feel like there is more to prove about how good of a team that we can be and how good of a team that we are,” junior quarterback Zach Wilson said. “You’re not a good team if you can’t finish the season off right. So this is a big win for us and a big bowl game. It’s hard to specifically say what there is left to prove, but we don’t want to end with two losses. That’s not fun.”

Here’s a look at BYU’s inglorious history in Florida:

Tangerine Bowl vs. Oklahoma State in Orlando (Dec. 18, 1976)

BYU went into the bowl game as the WAC champion for the third time in 11 years. OSU had finished in a three-way tie in the Big Eight with Oklahoma and Colorado.

The Cowboys cruised to a 49-21 victory. The Cougars finished the 1976 season with a 9-3 overall record, and had a perfect 7-0 Western Athletic Conference record.

Citrus Bowl vs. Ohio State in Orlando (Dec. 28, 1985)

A year after BYU won the national title, the Cougars entered the bowl game as the favorites, ranked ninth in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls, with a 11-2 record. The Buckeyes came in ranked 17th in both polls.

The game was expected to be a high-scoring affair, but instead Ohio State upset BYU 10-7. That season, BYU’s Robbie Brosco threw for 4,273 yards and 30 touchdowns (338 of 551 passing), and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

At Miami (Dec. 3, 1988)

Originally scheduled for Sept. 10, BYU shuffled around its schedule to instead close out the regular season at Miami, the defending national champion. The Hurricanes scored 27 points in the second quarter on the way to easily beating the Cougars 41-17.

Ty Detmer threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times and sacked three times.

Pigskin Classic vs. Florida State in Jacksonville (Aug. 26, 2000)

The Pigskin Classic served as a season-opening college football game played at Anaheim Stadium. The Cougars gave up three turnovers and were unable to get into the end zone.

The Seminoles put up 150 more total offensive yards on the way to beating the Cougars 29-3. The Cougars finished the 2000 season with a 6-6 record.

At Florida State (Sept. 18, 2010)

The Seminoles scored in every quarter to beat BYU 34-10. The Cougars were held to just 191 yards — and only 39 in the second half. BYU’s quarterbacks were also sacked eight times.

The loss was the second of four consecutive losses the Cougars suffered. BYU finished with a 7-6 record, capped off at the New Mexico Bowl.

At Central Florida (Oct. 9, 2014)

The Knights jumped out to an early lead and then overcame a 14-point deficit to force overtime, where UCF eventually beat BYU 31-24. Taysom Hill had recently gone down with a season-ending broken leg, so Christian Stewart got his first start for the Cougars.

BYU finished the regular season with a 8-4 record and went on to play in the Miami Beach Bowl.

Miami Beach Bowl vs. Memphis in Miami (Dec. 22, 2014)

The inaugural Miami Beach Bowl, which took place at Marlins Park, featured two programs that had never previously met. The game was decided in double overtime and ended in a brawl as Memphis beat BYU 55-48.

An overtime interception by the Tigers’ DaShaughn Terry ended the game. BYU totaled 425 yards compared to Memphis’ 480, but the Tigers outgained the Cougars on the ground 174-77.

At South Florida (Oct. 12, 2019)

In the Cougars’ third consecutive loss of the season, BYU was unable to close out a game it led for three quarters. The Bulls scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat the Cougars 27-23.

BYU backup quarterback Jaren Hall got his first start.

For the second consecutive game, the Cougars lost their starting quarterback late in the game and third-stringer Baylor Romney took over in the second half.


At FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla.

Kickoff » Tuesday, 5 p.m. MT


Radio » 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius 143.

Records » BYU 10-1; UCF 6-3

All-time series » tied 1-1

Last meeting » UCF 31, BYU 24 (Oct. 9, 2016)

About BYU » The RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl will be BYU’s 38th bowl game dating back to the 1974 Fiesta Bowl. ... BYU is 10-1, having earned the program’s first 10-win season since 2011 when the Cougars finished 10-3 in in their first season as an independent. ... BYU is the only FBS team ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense (No. 9; 43.0 ppg), scoring defense (No. 3; 14.6 ppg), total offense (No. 10; 510.1 ypg) and total defense (No. 10; 309.5 ypg).

About UCF » This season marks UCF’s fifth consecutive season playing in a bowl game, which is a program record. ... The Knights rank second in the nation with 585.6 yards of total offense per game and 373.0 passing yards per game. ... Sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel was one of the best freshmen in the nation in 2019, throwing for 3,653 yards. In 2020, he leads the nation with 372.6 passing yards per game.

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