Loyal Cougars

Best Game Ever: 1979 – Cougars silence San Diego State

Roy Atkin recalls attending a game when BYU destroyed a big-talking San Diego State team — part of the Loyal Cougars “Best Game Ever” series.

It was a beautful day in San Diego. The San Diego State Aztecs had just entered the Western Athletic Conference the season before and anticipated being #1 in the conference. Jack Murphy Stadium was filled with 46,000 plus screaming red clad Aztec fans.

The Aztecs players entered the field like Roman Soldiers, arm and arm chanting as they came onto the field. On the opposite side were the Cougars, warming up rather lackadaisically while observing a force with which to be reckoned.

My wife and I, wearing our blue and white, were surrounded by taunting red-clad Aztec fans. This taunting of BYU persisted until 2011 when BYU opted out of the Mountain West for Independence.

The final 1979 conference game was on national television as BYU was ranked #10 at 10-0, while SDSU was 8-2 after having beaten Utah and Miami.

BYU stopped the Aztecs on the opening offensive series and the Aztecs were forced to punt. Marc Wilson dropped back to pass perhaps on the second down and threw a 60-yard bomb that resulted in a touchdown.

By the third quarter, the Aztec fans were finding the exits. We remained in our place amid empty seats and spent a very quiet fourth quarter enjoying the beautiful day. The final score was BYU 63, SDSU 14.

Little did I realize the magnitude of this blowout victory. SDSU claims BYU their number one rival. What contributed to this rivalry early after this blowout were the comments made later by Doug Scovil. Scovil was BYU’s offensive coordinator during this game in 1979, but would become San Diego State’s head coach just two seasons later.

Scovil would go on to speak to the San Diego Union Tribune and was not complementary about BYU. He stated that he made BYU the power it became, and now that he was head coach at SDSU he could have a cup of coffee and a cigarette without having to be secretive about doing so.

We continued going to all the SDSU vs BYU games as we reside in San Diego County. The “rivalry” has made it extremely interesting for us and most of the time we have had the sweet taste of victory against SDSU.

by Roy and Patricia Atkin
Carlsbad, CA

 (10) BYU 63, San Diego State 14
November 24, 1979
San Diego, CA

Best Game EverThe Loyal Cougars “Best Game Ever” Series is about shared stories — the time you left a game you attended in person and thought “that was the best game ever!” If you have a story to tell of such a game, submit it to bestgame@loyalcougars.com and share it with the fan base.

Read the timeline of published stories at the Best Game Ever page.


  1. Alan Miller

    July 25, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    I happened to be at a friend’s house that Thanksgiving weekend, and as I watched the game on TV, one early statistic on Marc Wilson stood out: 3 attempts, 3 completions, 3 touchdowns.

  2. Glade Johnson

    July 25, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I have a picture of me and my 20 month old son sitting in front of the TV, wearing matching BYU shirts, watching that game. It was a LOT of fun to watch!

    • Brett Hein

      July 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      No way. This needs to be seen! That’s awesome.

  3. Rob Bean

    July 25, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Why, why, why can’t someone dig up and show videotape of these amazing games? That was one of the most enjoyable games I have ever seen. What I wouldn’t give to watch that one and the win over Ta&m from that ’79 season.

    • Richard Quinlan

      July 25, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      amen – I had spent that San Diego homecoming week with a friend who was a student at the S.S. nobody went to class unless there was beer in the classroom. They knew that they were going to win this game and I listened to trash talk all week. We sat in the student section on the 40 yard line. I was told if I cheered for BYU someone would fight me and to keep quiet. After the first series of the second half their student section was cheering every good play BYU made and booing their own team. The Miracle Bowl was the best – last five minutes of any game –this game was the best – first five minutes of any college game. What a game!!!!! I have searched for this game for four years and can’t find it

  4. NukeCoug

    July 25, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    I was a student at BYU at the time, but flew home to SoCal for the Thanksgiving weekend and attended the game in person. The atmosphere in the stadium was electrifying, in part because ABC chose to broadcast this game nationwide instead of the USC-UCLA game that was being played at the same time. Going in, BYU was undefeated and I believe SDSU had only one loss. My recollection is that 3 of Marc Wilson’s first 5 pass attempts went for touchdowns. (Not 3 for 3, but still pretty amazing!) Equally amazing was the way in which our defense completely shut down the until-then highly explosive SDSU offense. The game was over almost before it started. By halftime, the score was 35-7. Nobody ever imagined such a decisive outcome, but it was a testament to the creativity of BYU’s passing attack. Our receivers were absolutely wide open all day, and our ball carriers ran wild. I have always wished that a recording of this game was available. You had so see it to believe it.

    After the game, the BYU players and coaches graciously commented that the two teams were much closer in talent than the final score indicated. That may have been true, but I will never forget the complete dominance that BYU displayed over a very capable opponent on that day. In my opinion, the 1979 BYU Football Team, which came within two points of an undefeated season, has never received the recognition that it has long deserved. This is due in large part because its anniversary is at a five-year interval with the 1984 National Championship Team. I hope that someday BYU will remember them, too.

  5. NukeCoug

    July 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Upon further reflection, I believe Alan Miller is correct…Marc Wilson’s first three passes went for touchdowns, as well as his fifth pass…so four of his first five passes were touchdowns. In any case, it was an amazing performance!!!

  6. Brett Hein

    July 25, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I was not alive for this game, but I do seem to recall reading about it in “And It Came To Pass.” I believe this was the game SDSU decided it was going to blitz every down to try and rattle Wilson. Oops.

  7. Max for President

    July 26, 2014 at 8:12 am

    BYU: Sending SDSU fans packing since 1979.

  8. Diana

    July 26, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Its fun to read about this game although I am too young to remember this game.
    I would love for BYUtv to show some of these games. I think they do a great job with the games they do show, but it would be fun to have even more!

  9. Chris

    July 27, 2014 at 9:36 am

    I grew up watching and rooting for the Aztecs and went to that game to cheer them on – even though I would be entering BYU in January. The pre-game atmosphere WAS electric and very exciting. The play I remember most about that game was just before half time. BYU had the ball in their own half, maybe 60-70 yards away and was going to just let the clock run out. Both wide receivers ran streak patterns down the sidelines and they handed the ball to the running back on a draw play – I think it was Lakai Hemuli – and he got through the initial defenders into the open field. He weaved his way down field running past and around several Aztecs. The defensive backs had their eyes on the receivers and didn’t see the running back. People were screaming for them to turn around and make a tackle (which they didn’t hear of course) until it was too late. BYU scored on the last play of the half while just trying to run out the clock and the air went completely out of the Aztec balloon. The BYU fans around me went nuts and I have been a true blue fan ever since.

    • Rob Bean

      July 27, 2014 at 5:38 pm

      I know the play you are talking about. But I think the back was Eric Lane who later played for the Seahawks on special teams(he had a nice career mainly as a ST player). When that play was over Lane was so tired from having run east-west to elude defenders that he dropped down on all fours trying to catch his breath instead of celebrating the TD. Absolutely fun to see.

  10. Michael McQuain

    July 27, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I was on the sidelines for this game – it was my first walk-on year as a Scout teamer. The first of MANY unforgettable games at the Murph as a BYU Cougar.

    Willy…Danny Player…Bill Davis….Eric Lane and Homer Jones passed, caught and ran WILD over the Aztec’s defense. Meantime…MLB Gary Kama led the Fred Whittingham coached Cougar defense which crushed SDSU.

    Interesting BYU trivia….THIS game was THE first time BYU ever played on national TV. Many mistakenly think it was the Pitt ESPN game in 1984….but on this late November weekend…the ABC Sports programming execs unexpectedly decided last-minute to make the USC-UCLA rivalry game just up the road in L.A. a REGIONAL game and slotted BYU/SDSU for the national cast. I actually have this game on a DVD – burned from an old VHS tape. Al Michaels and Frank Broyles on the call. It’s CLASSIC. After Willy’s 3rd TD pass in the 1st quarter….Michaels says “….Marc Wilson is EVERY BIT an All American…”

    I have offered my DVD to the folks at BYUtv to add to their on-demand archive….but they have re-buffed every offer. In MY opinion – this is one of the GREATEST BYU games almost no one – especially you younger pups – have ever seen.

    • Roy Atkin

      August 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      I would love a copy of that game. I think Brett Hines would make it possible to have your tape put into the archives of BYU football Best Games Ever as well.

  11. Jeff Gibbs

    July 30, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I would love to get a copy of that.