With 2012 coming to a close Monday night, it’s time to look back at what happened in BYU sports during the past 12 months.
There’s no doubt that the Cougars had one of the best years in their history — at least in women’s sports.
The men’s teams, well, not so much.
But even though most of the BYU successes were in other sports, football remains the big dog on campus and thus it dominated the headlines.
Here’s a look at the Top 10 Cougar sports stories from 2012:
1. Football boasts arguably the best defense in BYU history
If you just look at the numbers, it was obviously one special year for the Cougar defenders. BYU ranked in the Top 10 in the country in average rushing yards allowed, average total yards allowed and points per game, something no other Cougar defense had done.
Led by NFL-caliber players like Kyle Van Noy, Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah and Brandon Ogletree with others like Romney Fuga, Preston Hadley and Uona Kaveinga possibly also making it to the next level, BYU’s defense punished opposing offenses, only allowing one team to score more than 24 points (Oregon State).
2. Quarterback and line issues again cripple the offense on the gridiron
For the third straight season, the Cougars couldn’t find consistency at the quarterback position. Riley Nelson spent much of the year struggling with injuries, Taysom Hill had a promising start cut short by a season-ending knee injury (on a play that should never have been run) and James Lark came in late and had limited success in two starts.
A big part of the backfield problems resulted from the banged up offensive line, who lost multiple guys to various injuries. The unit had a tough time finding consistency and never came together like Cougar fans hoped, resulting in limited offensive effectiveness.
3. Late-night fight in Provo restaurant results in Cougar players being suspended, charged with assault
BYU players Joe Sampson and Zac Stout were suspended from the team and charged with assault after an altercation that took place at a Provo Rancherito’s restaurant early on Nov. 1.
Security video from the restaurant showed players getting in an argument with other patrons and eventually it escalated into a brawl that spread throughout the building.
Sampson, a starting safety, and Stout, a backup linebacker, also withdrew from school due to the fight.
4. Women’s soccer and volleyball both make deep NCAA tournament runs
Two of the teams that enjoyed the most success in 2012 played at the same time as both the women’s soccer and volleyball squads spent much of the season ranked in the Top 25 in the nation.
The Cougar soccer squad edged out their volleyball counterparts, making it all the way to No. 2 and reaching the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament before falling 2-1 in overtime to the eventual national champions from North Carolina.
The volleyball squad ended up in the Sweet 16 before its season came to a close in a 3-1 loss to Oregon.
5. Men’s basketball has limited success in post-Jimmer era
After the Cougars enjoyed having one of the great scorers in college basketball in 2011, BYU still enjoyed moderate success but struggled with shooting funks in 2012.
The result was a third-place finish in its first season in the West Coast Conference, but the team did make it back to the NCAA tournament. There it staged the biggest comeback in tournament history as it overcame a 24-point deficit in a 78-72 win over Iona in the first round, but the run ended there with an 88-68 loss to Marquette.
6. Men’s rugby breaks through to win second collegiate national championship
After a couple straight years of losing in the title game, the Cougars held off a determined effort by Arkansas State in the championship to get the 49-42 win and secure the title. Led by 10 All-Americans, BYU got a big try from big Mikey Su’a, a crowd favorite, to help put away the victory.
Later in the summer, BYU announced that it would be it’s final USA Rugby tournament as it would join the Varsity Cup Championship, a new postseason club rugby event that will start in 2013.
7. Cougar fans can’t convince one of nation’s top hoops recruits to come to Provo
BYU supporters tried everything they could to entice Jabari Parker, an LDS athlete from Chicago who many consider the No. 1 high school player in the country, to join the Cougars. That included shirts, cheers, even a Youtube video that went viral.
It didn’t work as Parker elected to go to Duke instead, but for BYU to even make the Top 5 list of a recruit of that caliber was noteworthy.
8. Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah gains national attention as football player from Ghana
The story of a soccer player turned track athlete from Africa who decided to try football drew the eye of NFL scouts and national publications. Only a couple of years from having be taught how to put on his pads, Ansah's combination of size, athleticism and speed made him a big potential pro prospect.
The story, which had been told frequently in Utah, started gaining wider appeal. Sports Illustrated did a four-page feature on Ansah in early December and he was also the focus of the "Only a Game" segment on National Public Radio.
9. Baseball sees end to tenure of head coach Vance Law
Although Law enjoyed a very successful professional baseball career, he couldn't find a way to get the Cougars to find similar success on the diamond. BYU went 397-342-2 under Law since 2000 but hadn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2002.
After the decision was reached to not renew Law's contract, the Cougars decided to turn the program over to Mike Littlewood, a former BYU player who enjoyed success as the long-time baseball coach at Dixie State College in St. Geoge.
10. Mackie finishes one of the great BYU athletic careers with track success
Mackie enjoyed one of the greatest single seasons in BYU history. Just some of her achievements included winning the indoor and outdoor national championships in the 800 meters, being named the Mountain Region Women’s Track Athlete of the Year, setting and breaking the BYU indoor 800-meters all-time record and receiving first-team All-America honors in the indoor 800 meters, the distance medley relay and the outdoor 800 meters.
Those accomplishments might have barely edged out what was done by Miles Batty on the men's team. Batty was an eight-time All-American who set an NCAA record in the mile with a time of 3:54.54. He also came in second in the NCAA finals in the 1,500-meters by 0.01 seconds.