'It all came together': 30 years later, BYU players reflect on winning the 1984 national championship
The Cougars opened the season with a stunning upset of No. 3 Pitt on the road. Then came several more close games, including four fourth-quarter comebacks. While other teams higher in the rankings fell week after week, BYU eventually climbed to the top of the polls and was the only undefeated team that year. The Cougars rallied to defeat a 6-5 Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl to preserve a perfect season.
“We were tested numerous times throughout that season. Every time we stood our ground and responded,” Sikahema said. “One of the ingredients of great teams always, at any level, is to play well enough, even when you’re not playing your best, to be triumphant at the end of the day. That’s how special things happen.”
Along the way, BYU made some amazing, unforgettable plays that won tight games. Among the plays that live on in Cougar football lore is Morrell's timed leap over Hawaii’s offensive line near the goal line to stop the quarterback and prevent a Warrior touchdown late in the game. BYU won, 18-13.
“We just didn’t play well that night for whatever reason,” Sikahema said. “If he doesn’t make that tackle, we don’t go undefeated and play for a national championship.”
“One thing that stands out is the power of miracles,” Matich said. “There were a series of miracles, on and off the field, that led to that and contributed to that (championship). We had fantastic camaraderie. We were a band of brothers. But I think that gets too much attention, people lose sight of the quality of players on the field.”
Going into the 1984 season, the Cougars, though unranked, had won eight consecutive Western Athletic Conference titles. BYU possessed a swagger and an aura.
Sikahema recalls, as an NFL rookie with the St. Louis Cardinals, having a conversation with former Wyoming tight end Jay Novacek, who was his teammate with the Cardinals. In 1984, the Cougars held on for a 41-38 victory over the Cowboys, and Novacek, in Provo.
“Jay said to me over lunch, ‘You know, when we came to Provo, there was something weird about your team,’” Sikahema recalled. “We would stand there and we would warm up and do all the false chatter guys would do. But deep down, we knew we weren’t going to beat you guys.’ I laughed and said, ‘The amazing thing is that while we were warming up, we also knew we were going to beat you guys.’ We had a good laugh.’ Jay probably understood that later when he went to the Dallas Cowboys and played on two or three of their Super Bowl championship teams.”
White said part of the legacy of what the Cougars accomplished in 1984 is “the determination and heart of our players, sticking together. We went through a hard, hard season with a lot of doubters. Our team stuck together like brothers. We didn’t let anyone bring us down.”
"Looking back at my career, (the national championship) means a lot," said quarterback Robbie Bosco. "One of the great things about winning a national championship is the whole team is involved. It's a team award. You can celebrate that with everybody, and you can talk about it forever."
Last spring, when current BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae, and an offensive lineman in 1984, was asked about that season, he joked: “We always remind each other how great we were. The stories seem to be getting bigger. The Holiday Bowl, I think I heard (quarterback Robbie) Bosco was helicoptered out of there and brought back. The older (we get), the wilder the stories. Mythical, legendary. Shoot, we just got lucky, in my opinion.”
"The way it all came together, it almost had to work just the way it did for it to happen," recalled legendary coach LaVell Edwards. "It was a magical year."
To this day, Edwards maintains that the 1984 team may not have been the most talented squad he coached in his 29 years at the helm. "But it was certainly one of the best teams we ever had because it was a group of guys that got along well," he said.
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