PROVO, Utah (Dec. 16, 2001) No. 17 BYU (12-1) will travel to Memphis, Tenn., on Monday, Dec. 31, to take on No. 22 Louisville (10-2) in the 43rd annual Liberty Bowl. The game, which will be played at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (62,380), will be televised on ESPN, beginning at 3 p.m. (CST). While this game will mark the first-ever meeting between the two schools, the Cougars have posted a 2-2 record against current teams from Conference USA, including a 70-35 victory over Tulane earlier this season. The Cardinals are 1-3 against current teams from the Mountain West Conference, including their first-ever victory over a MWC team earlier this season -- a 7-2 win over Colorado State. BYU is 1-0 against teams from the state of Kentucky, including a 43-9 win over Murray State in 1998, while Louisville is 0-2 against teams from the state of Utah. BYU will be playing its 23rd bowl game, while Louisville will be making its ninth appearance, including its fifth straight trip to a bowl game under head coach John L. Smith. The Cougars will be making their second appearance in the Liberty Bowl, while the Cardinals are making their third showing, including their second straight appearance in Memphis.
TICKET SALES UPDATE
As of Saturday, Dec. 15, school officials reported just over 5,000 BYU tickets have been sold for this year's Liberty Bowl. Tickets are still available by calling (801) 378-BYU1 or toll free, (800) 322-BYU1. In an effort to further support the team, fans are encouraged to purchase tickets, even if they will be unable to make the trip to Memphis. Tickets purchased in this regard will be considered a donation to the program and credited towards BYU's required ticket allotment. Those tickets will be donated to the LDS Church missionaries and those investigating the Church in the Memphis area.
The Cougars will depart Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 27 aboard Omni International charter air service. While in Memphis, the Cougars will be staying at the Adam's Mark Hotel. Thursday evening, the team will attend the official welcome party and dinner at 7 p.m., which will be held at Julian's Peabody Place. Following the awards luncheon at noon on Friday at the Adam's Mark Hotel, BYU is scheduled to practice at 2 p.m. (CST) at Memphis Univeristy High School. The team will practice again on Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m. (CST). The team will return to Provo immediately following the game.
The Liberty Bowl will be broadcast live to a national television audience, beginning at 3 p.m. (CST) on Monday, Dec. 31. Mark Jones will call the action with Chris Spielman lending analysis from the booth. Utah's Holly Rowe will report from the sidelines. While BYU has made six nationally-televised apperances this season, Monday's game will mark the first appearance on ESPN this season.
ALL-AMERICAN TO MISS LIBERTY BOWL
BYU running back and Doak Walker Award winner Luke Staley will undergo surgery on Tuesday, Dec. 18 to repair damaged ligaments in his ankle. Due to the surgery, the consensus All-American will not play against Louisville in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31. Stress x-rays taken on Dec. 14 showed that while the fractured fibula was healing well, the ligament damage in his ankle, sustained as a result of the broken fibula, would need to be repaired to help stabilize the ankle joint. Staley sustained a broken fibula against Mississippi State on Dec. 1 in the Cougars' 41-38 come-from-behind victory. Staley was injured on the final drive of the game after racking up 30 of his game-high 149 yards.
COUGARS CLAIM MWC TITLE
BYU captured its second MWC championship in the past three years after a thrilling come-from-behind 24-21 win over Utah on Saturday, Nov. 17. The win marked the first outright title for the Cougars since the 1996 season and became the first-ever MWC team to win the league title with a perfect 7-0 record. Since winning its first conference title in 1965, BYU has won a total of 21 league titles, including 10 straight championships from 1976-1985. Of the 21 conference titles, BYU has won the championship outright 13 times.
COUGARS SET SINGLE-SEASON SCORING RECORD
Through 13 regular-season games, BYU produced 608 points, averaging a nation's best 46.7 points per game and the best regular-season scoring average in BYU football history. The 2001 Cougars broke the 21-year-old record by just .1 point per game. The 1980 Cougars averaged 46.6 over 12 games. Army holds the NCAA scoring average record, posting 56.0 points per game during the 1944 season. Nebraska holds the NCAA record for most points scored in a single season with 624 over 12 games, set during the 1983 season.
THE DYNAMIC DUO; STALEY-DOMAN LEAD THE NATION
On the season, consensus All-American Luke Staley racked up 1,596 yards rushing, while Heisman Trophy candidate Brandon Doman turned in 3,542 yards passing. With those numbers, the Cougars were one of just five teams in the nation with a 1,000-yard rusher and 3,000-yard passer. Interestingly, Staley and Doman were the only 3,500-1,500 quarterback-running back duo in the country. Staley and Doman are only the second quarterback and running back in school history to record a 3,000-1,000-yard season. Prior to this season, Jamal Willis and John Walsh were the only QB-RB combo in BYU history to post a 3,000-1,000-yard campaign.
CAUTION: FALLING TEAM RECORDS AHEAD
During the 2001 season, the Cougars broke as many as five offensive team records. In addition to clipping the single-season scoring average, the Cougars racked up 7,118 yards of total offense, surpassing the 11-year old record of 6,790 yards by 328 yards. During the 2001 season, the Cougars recorded 351 first downs, passing the old record of 348, set in 1990. BYU also turned in a record 2,893 yards rushing, passing the old single-season mark of 2,549 set in 1996. Finally, in 1981, BYU set what was thought to be an unapproachable record, posting an interception percentage of just 2.2. In 2001, Doman and company threw 486 balls with just nine interceptions, totaling an amazing 1.8 interception percentage.
COUGARS BOAST EIGHT FIRST-TEAM ALL-MWC PERFORMERS
For only the sixth time since 1980, eight different players were selected for first-team all-league honors in 2001. The Cougars were honored with five All-Mountain West first-team offensive performers, and three first-team defensive players. Luke Staley headlined the group, earning not only All-MWC first-team honors, but was named the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. The BYU first-teamers include, Brandon Doman, Reno Mahe, Luke Staley, Doug Jolley, Jason Scukanec, Ryan Denney, Justin Ena and Jernaro Gilford. BYU lead all MWC teams with eight first-team performers. Offensive lineman Ben Archibald received second-team recognition, while another 11 BYU players earned All-MWC honorable mention honors, as selected by the league's head coaches.
DENNEY NAMED BYU's 20TH ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAN
For the 20th time in BYU football history, a player has been named as an Academic All-American. Senior defensive end Ryan Denney, who sports an impressive 3.7 grade-point average in finance, was named to the 2001 Verizon Academic All-America team. Denney, who was recently engaged to be married, is the second straight defensive player to earn Academic All-America honors, after Jared Lee earned the honor in 2000. A native of Thornton, Colo., Denney produced 68 tackles on the season, including 45 solo takedowns. Denney recorded a team-leading 19 tackles for a combined loss of 75 yards, including seven sacks for 50 yards. He tallied eight pass deflections, one interception and scored his first career touchdown after picking up a blocked field goal attempt for an 82-yard touchdown at San Diego State.
GARY CROWTON: COACH OF THE YEAR
After leading BYU to its fourth 12-win season in the program's 79-year history, including its first since 1996, head coach Gary Crowton was named the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year by his peers, as well as the league's sports writers. Crowton also finished third in the Associated Press balloting for National Coach-of the-Year honors. Crowton finished behind Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen and Miami head coach Larry Coker. The Orem, Utah native was also a finalist for the prestigious Walter Camp Football Foundation National Coach-of-the-Year honor. Crowton and the Cougars finished 12-1 on the season, including a perfect 7-0 record in league play.
MARGIN OF VICTORY
Throughout the season, the Cougars tallied 608 points, averaging a nation's best 46.7 points per game. BYU has allowed 396 points, giving up an average 30.5 points per contest. Overall, the Cougars have tallied a +16.3-point margin of victory. The Cougars have won four games on the season by 30 or more points, including a season-high 45-point win over Nevada on Sept. 1. BYU has won its last three games by an average 4.3 points.
WHAT COMES AROUND, GOES AROUND
On Oct. 20, BYU handed Air Force its worst-ever loss, scoring a record 63 points against the Falcons. The Cougars were handed a bit of their own medicine on Dec. 8, losing to Hawai'i by 27 points. The Warriors scored a record 72 points against BYU, marking the most points ever allowed by the Cougars.
HEAD-TO-HEAD WITH THE CARDINALS
On the season, BYU and Louisville have played just two common opponents, including Colorado State and Tulane. The Cougars have posted a 2-0 record against those teams, while UofL has also recorded a mark of 2-0.