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BYU football history: Could Cougar fans really root for Goliath?

By Ken Driggs

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Aug. 7 2014 10:10 a.m. MDT

l-r: BYU's Glen Kozlowski and Mark Bellini celebrate a TD reception by Bellini during the football game against Air Force in Colorado Springs, Colorado. October 20, 1984.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

With the dominance of the Power 5 conferences on the national football scene, it seems like forever that BYU fans have defined the BYU program as the underdog, battling against "the powers that be." It really wasn't that long ago that Western Athletic Conference foes saw BYU as a dominant, all-pervasive force.

I saw this firsthand during the magical 1984 national championship season. My cousin Gary Driggs and I took our sons Ben and Kevin to the BYU-Air Force game in Colorado Springs on a cold and blustery October afternoon.

We arrived to witness a surreal scene. The compact and intimate stadium had not been fully completed, and the student sections were separated like fingers on a hand.

The status of the field added to the eerie nature of the day. It had snowed during the week, frozen, and then thawed. The grass field was heavy, wet, with the texture of a cow pasture. The off and on light snow, wind and dreary sky during the game made it all the more ominous.

Out of this setting appeared two starkly different teams. The hometown Air Force Falcons were sleek, small and energized, ready to take down the nationally ranked Cougars.

The confident BYU team looked huge in comparison, with behemoth linemen and an indestructible aura of a 6-0 powerhouse. It had all the appearance of a David versus Goliath contest, but of course we were pulling for the big guys.

The Falcons fought an uphill battle and kept the game close into the fourth quarter. A late touchdown brought Air Force to a two point deficit, but the Cougars stuffed the Air Force option on the two-point try.

Then came the game-clinching play. After a major infraction put the Cougars first and long, deep in their own territory, the coaches called a genius play. It was a tight end screen pass from Robbie Bosco to David Mills.

That same play had worked for a touchdown the week before in a tight game against Wyoming. This time it resulted in a more than 50 yard gain, deep into Air Force territory. Ace kicker Lee Johnson boomed through a field goal, and the Cougars escaped Colorado Springs with a well-earned but tough 30-25 win.

If I wanted to exult after a win and still give the other team credit, that was the day. The Falcons gave everything they had, but the big guys came through for the Cougars on their way to destiny.

It was an unforgettable day and a memorable scene. Maybe someday soon we will return to the situation where others are complaining that BYU is winning too much. It can't come soon enough for me.

Ken Driggs of Mesa, Arizona, is a BYU graduate and served as Cosmo in the ’60s. Contact him at kkdriggs@gmail.com.

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