Cougars renew old rivalry on Islands

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 29 2011 12:17 a.m. MST

PROVO — The last time BYU played Hawaii at Aloha Stadium, one decade ago, it was a euphoric day for the Warriors — and a miserable day for the Cougars.

On Dec. 8, 2001, BYU was undefeated and ranked No. 9 in the country, but was playing without injured running back Luke Staley, and reeling after having been snubbed earlier in the week by the Bowl Championship Series, relegating the Cougars to the Liberty Bowl.

Hawaii, meanwhile, had a winning record, but no bowl game to play in at the end of the season.

The result? The Warriors, who scored two special teams touchdowns and capitalized on seven Cougar turnovers, hammered BYU, 72-45, touching off a wild celebration for Hawaii players, coaches and fans.

At least one Warrior player said it might have been the biggest win in school history. Linebacker Chris Brown said, "The governor should declare this a holiday. From now on this should be called 'Beat BYU Day.' "

"We came out and beat Goliath," said Hawaii wide receiver Ashley Lelie. "We beat up the bully."

Those statements tell you everything you need to know about the series between BYU and Hawaii.

Needless to say, that was a day that lives in infamy for the Cougar football program.

"This was their bowl game and they came out and pulled out all the stops," said then-BYU center Jason Scukanec. "We were having a Cinderella season and I guess it strikes midnight for every Cinderella. If it was easy to go 13-0, everybody would be doing it."

While the two starting quarterbacks in that game — the Cougars' Brandon Doman and the Warriors' Nick Rolovich — are now the respective teams' offensive coordinators, that was 10 years ago. Most of the current BYU and Hawaii players were just kids back then.

Still, when BYU and Hawaii renew their rivalry Saturday (5:30 p.m., MT, ESPN2) at Aloha Stadium, it's expected to be a physical, intense battle.

The Warriors (6-6) need to beat the Cougars to be bowl eligible and avoid a losing season. Beyond that, it's BYU versus Hawaii.

"This was a huge rivalry in the 1980s and 1990s," said Ferd Lewis, who has covered Hawaii football for the Honolulu Advertiser since the early 1970s. "It's kind of legacy thing, something that's handed down and fathers tell their sons about. It's still something to look forward to. There's also a nostalgia from the past that hangs over everything."

Former BYU coaching legend LaVell Edwards took his teams to the Islands many times during his 29-year tenure, though he retired one year before the 2001 debacle.

"It's always a big rivalry," he said this week. "The game always meant a lot. A lot of times, it had championship ramifications associated with it."

From 1978-1988, the Cougars won 10 consecutive games in the series, with all but two of those played in Honolulu. Then, in 1989, under new coach Bob Wagner, Hawaii, implementing a spread offense, ended that streak with a dominating 56-14 victory.

"It was like they were dropping guys out of the sky catching the ball," Edwards recalled.

The following year, the Warriors proved it was no fluke. They destroyed the Cougars again — on the same day BYU quarterback Ty Detmer won the Heisman Trophy — by a score of 59-28.

Yet, despite those dismal defeats, Edwards has fond memories of those games in Hawaii, including an amazing left-footed punt by Jim McMahon, and a game-saving, leaping tackle by Kyle Morrell, who jumped over the line of scrimmage to tackle the quarterback near the goal line during BYU's run to its 1984 national championship.

"Some of the best plays I ever saw happened over there," Edwards said. "Most of the games were tight defensive battles."

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