PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The BYU football team has accepted an invitation to play SMU in the New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium in Albuquerque on Saturday, Dec. 17. The game will be played at 5:30 MT and be televised on ABC4.
The kick time and television network for the game are subject to change if this week the NFL flexes the Las Vegas Raiders/New England Patriots game time on Sunday, Dec. 18 to an earlier window. If that happens, the New Mexico Bowl and the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 17 will flex times, moving the BYU vs. SMU kickoff to 5:30 p.m. MT on ABC.
“We gratefully accept the invitation to participate in the 2022 New Mexico Bowl,” said BYU director of athletics Tom Holmoe. “We had a fantastic experience 12 years ago in Albuquerque and look forward to returning to the warm hospitality and incredible southwestern culture. With a pre-Christmas game, we anticipate Cougar Nation will have a strong showing at the game. The New Mexico Bowl also closes the independence chapter of BYU football and ushers in the era of the Big 12, and we look forward to what’s ahead.”
BYU (7-5) will be making its second appearance in the New Mexico Bowl when it takes on SMU (7-5, 5-3 American Athletic Conference). The Cougars won the 2010 New Mexico Bowl against UTEP, earning a 52-24 victory over the Miners led by New Mexico Bowl MVP Jake Heaps’ four passing touchdowns, including three to wideout Cody Hoffman.
“It is wonderful to welcome BYU back to the New Mexico Bowl”, said New Mexico Bowl Executive Director Jeff Siembieda. “One of the premier programs in college football, the Cougars have a long history of big moments in our state and are very familiar to the locals. We look forward to hosting the team, players, families and the tremendous BYU fan base in Albuquerque.”
This year will be BYU’s 40th bowl overall dating back to the 1974 Fiesta Bowl. Among their 40 bowl appearances, the Cougars have played in 20 different bowl games in 12 states. BYU’s 40 bowl invitations rank tied for No. 20 among college programs—more than storied programs such as UCLA, Notre Dame, Oregon, Iowa and Wisconsin. The Cougars have gone bowling in 17 of the past 18 seasons.
“We appreciate this invitation from the New Mexico Bowl to come to Albuquerque and face a very good SMU team,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “Rhett Lashlee is an excellent coach, and he has his team playing very well right now. Our team is excited for the challenge and for another chance to take the field together. We are grateful for this opportunity to have a great bowl experience for our players.”
BYU and SMU are meeting for the fourth time overall with the Cougars winning all three of the previous matchups. The last two contests took place as conference opponents in the Western Athletic Conference. It took overtime to decide BYU’s 19-16 victory at the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas in 1997 in the last matchup, while the Cougars’ 1996 team that finished No. 5 in the nation with a 14-1 record achieved a decisive 31-3 win over the Mustangs the year before at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
This year’s game will be the second time the Cougars and Mustangs have met in a bowl game. The first overall matchup between the two schools took place in San Diego at the 1980 Holiday Bowl, known by Cougar fans as the “Miracle Bowl.”
In 1980’s historic game, BYU completed one of the greatest comebacks in college football history by scoring 21 points over the final 2:33 of the game to beat the Mustangs 46-45. With over four minutes left in the game and BYU trailing 45-20, quarterback Jim McMahon rallied the Cougars with a touchdown to Matt Braga. After a punt, BYU scored again on a 1-yard touchdown run by Scott Phillips. Forcing a punt again with 13 seconds left, BYU’s Bill Schoepflin blocked a punt to set up BYU at the 41-yard line.
After two incomplete passes, McMahon launched a Hail Mary as time expired and tight end Clay Brown came down with the football in the middle of herd of Mustangs for a touchdown. BYU’s Kurt Gunther kicked the extra point for BYU to earn its first bowl victory in program history.