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Filling The Void

Filling the Void: Jim McMahon Becomes a Legend Against the Pony Express

Jim McMahon’s BYU Cougars take on Eric Dickerson, Craig James and the Pony Express of SMU in the 1980 Holiday Bowl, better known as “The Miracle Bowl.”

BYU Helmets by Ben P L is licensed under CC BY SA-2.0

Filling the Void: Jim McMahon Becomes a Legend Against the Pony Express


Estimated Reading Time: 2 Minutes

We’ve been at this for a while. When we started writing “Filling the Void” pieces, I don’t think we really knew what we were diving into. Within the first couple weeks however, we realized the importance of what we were trying to do. In a time during which live sports were canceled, on hold, or whatever you want to call it, we started exploring games, matches, and rounds of the past.

At first, it was all about what full games we could actually find. Then, as the breadth of what the world was facing came further into focus, leagues with strict copyright laws started loosening restrictions and more and more options landed on our list. Now, here we are, over 100 games later and still going strong. 

Today: Eric Dickerson and Craig James lead the SMU Mustangs into the Holiday Bowl against Jim McMahon and the BYU Cougars.



This is one of the most insane games you’ll ever see. Period.

First off, Jim McMahon before he became the Bears Super Bowl quarterback. The Bad Boy of the NFL, playing for the most angelic and buttoned-up universities in Brigham Young University.

The Cougars were the darlings of the Western Athletic Conference, going 12-1 on the year as they charged into the Holiday Bowl. With an offense led by McMahon, flanked by his top offensive weapons in Scott Phillips, Clay Brown and Eric Lane, the Cougars looked poised to put up a fight.

The problem was the team they were going up against.

The 1980 SMU Mustangs were incredible, but still weren’t in their final form. With Craig James and Eric Dickerson finishing their second-year under Ron Meyer, the Mustangs added a piece that had made all the difference. Quarterback Lance McIlhenny added a piece to the “Pony Excess” that Mike Ford didn’t have in his quickness and ability to pitch to both running backs.

The tandem of James and Dickerson seemed unstoppable and Ron Meyer’s Mustangs were ready to run.

This game has a fantastic ending, but it shouldn’t stop you from marveling at the first three quarters. James and Dickerson are a sight to behold, and McMahon pushes the Cougars as far as he can.

But there’s a reason this game is called the Miracle Bowl, and is a mainstay of every “Best College Football Comebacks” list. Hell, we’ve covered a lot of them before.

Also, if you have not seen ESPN’s 30 for 30 on SMU, you gotta get into it. Pony Excess is a fascinating look at how college football in ruled in Texas during the 1980s. Also, it does a fantastic job of showing the effects that the “Death Penalty” can have on a school. Get into it.

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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