BYU stars have shined brightly in San Diego

SAN DIEGO – Brigham Young can update history tonight by defeating San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl.

The Cougars (7-5) and Aztecs (9-3) meet at 5 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium on ESPN (Cox 30).

Despite having not won a bowl game in San Diego in 28 years, this part of the country remains a treasure trove of BYU nostalgia. In fact, some of the program’s greatest quarterbacks delivered the Cougars’ most memorable moments here.

Jim McMahon engineered a comeback against Southern Methodist in the 1980 Holiday Bowl. The Cougars trailed 45-25 with 4:07 left. BYU rallied for 21 points, capped by a 41-yard Hail Mary pass from McMahon to tight end Clay Brown as time expired. Kurt Gunther’s extra point gave the Cougars a 46-45 victory.

Steve Young threw a lot of touchdowns during his BYU career, but his most notable play was a reception he made to beat Missouri in the 1982 Holiday Bowl.

Trailing 17-14 with 23 seconds to play, Young made a fingertip catch on a throw-back pass by running back Eddie Stinnett and ran 14 yards for a touchdown, giving BYU a 21-17 win.

Robbie Bosco rallied the No. 1-ranked Cougars in the 1984 Holiday Bowl against Michigan. Bosco was knocked out of the game with ankle and knee injuries but returned to engineer two fourth-quarter touchdown drives.

Bosco threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Glen Kozlowski with 10:51 to play to tie the game at 17. Bosco’s touchdown pass to running back Kelly Smith with 1:23 left gave BYU a 24-17 victory to complete an undefeated season and secure the program’s first national championship.

Ty Detmer went 0-2-1 in Holiday Bowls, but his greatest moment occurred at Qualcomm Stadium against San Diego State in 1991. Trailing 45-17 in the third quarter, Detmer led the Cougars back to tie the Aztecs at 52.

Running back Jamal Willis, a Bonanza High School graduate, scored twice during the rally in a game that saw Detmer throw for a career-high 599 yards and six touchdowns. The tie assured the Cougars of another Holiday Bowl invite and diverted San Diego State to the Freedom Bowl in Anaheim, Calif.

In a twist of fate, the Cougars and Aztecs are back together at Qualcomm Stadium. But this time around, BYU is without a heralded quarterback. In fact, the quarterback position is the Cougars’ biggest question mark. Instead, BYU’s No. 7 defense is the headliner and will try to steal the show.

■ STARTING QUARTERBACK – Senior James Lark will make his second career start tonight. Lark started in place of Riley Nelson, who had injured ribs, and threw for 384 yards and six touchdowns at New Mexico State on Nov. 24.

“There is a good chance you could see both,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I’m not sure how it’s going to play out.”

Lark figures to face a challenge from the Aztecs’ defense, which features three down linemen, three linebackers and five backs.

“They have a lot of moving parts,” Lark said. “We just have to make sure to stay focused and target the right guys.”

■ CENTER OF ATTENTION – Sophomore Blair Tushaus will start at center in place of senior Braden Hansen, who is out with a groin injury. Tushaus began the season as the starting center but lost his spot to Hansen after the Cougars’ fifth game.

■ HOFFMAN HEROICS – Junior receiver Cody Hoffman has the school record with six bowl game touchdowns. He caught three touchdowns last year in BYU’s 24-21 win against Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl. Hoffman also caught three touchdowns in the 2010 New Mexico Bowl in the Cougars’ 52-24 victory over Texas-El Paso.

■ BROADCAST PLAN – “Countdown to Kickoff,” a pregame show, will air live at 4 p.m. today from San Diego on BYUtv (Cox 352). Live postgame coverage will resume on BYUtv after the game.

■ PARKER ANNOUNCEMENT – The recruiting battle over the nation’s top high school basketball prospect will end today. Jabari Parker, a 6-foot-9-inch senior from Chicago, will announce his decision on ESPNU (Cox 320) at 1 p.m. Parker, a Mormon, will choose between BYU, Duke, Michigan State, Florida and Stanford.

■ COUGARS VS. BEARS – BYU and Baylor reunite on the court Friday in Waco, Texas. The Bears were ranked No. 6 last season when they held off BYU in Provo, 86-83. BYU (8-3) and Baylor (7-3) meet at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 (Cox 31).

Dave McCann is a news anchor for KSL television in Salt Lake City and play-by-play voice for BYU sports on BYUtv. He also is the host of True Blue, which airs at 5:30 p.m. Mondays on BYUtv. He can be reached at or on Twitter @DaveMcCannKSL.

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