When BYU and Texas A&M made the annual Holiday Bowl team visit to a naval aircraft carrier docked in the San Diego Harbor Thursday afternoon, they got a firsthand look at a Desert Shield veteran.

The USS Independence had just returned from the Persian Gulf, where it had been dispatched shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait last August. Still onboard the ship were F-14 fighter planes and other military hardware. The Navy gave tours of its firepower to the coaches and players in attendance.Texas A&M's run-oriented offensive attack has yielded impressive results to date. Between them, quarterback Bucky Richardson, Darren Lewis and Robert Wilson rushed for 3,085 yards during theregular season, for a collective 5.9 yards-per-carry average.

BYU Coach LaVell Edwards, for one, is impressed. "I think Texas A&M is quicker than Penn State," he said, comparing the 1990 Aggies to the 1989 Penn State team BYU played in the Holiday Bowl a year ago. "Blair Thomas (Penn State's All-American) was a finesse back. Texas A&M has three backs bigger than our defenders."BYU's All-WAC defensive end Rich Kaufusi was explaining to a reporter for the San Diego Union why Polynesians make good football players.

"Polynesians have really short tempers," he told the Union's Tom Maloney. "And one way to find that out is to get them on the football field."BYU fans will take heart that Texas A&M's record on natural turf over the past few years is pathetic.

Since 1986, the Aggies have played on grass fields four times - and lost three times. That includes their only visit to a grass field this year, at Louisiana State, where they lost 17-8.

The 1990 Cougars, meanwhile, are 8-0 on grass.

Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego is grass.BYU quarterback Ty Detmer admits his right shoulder is bothering him, and has been since he first injured it against Utah on Nov. 17.

"It's a nagging injury," Detmer said at a press conference here. "It doesn't hurt when I throw the ball, only when I land on it or sometimes when I follow through."This will be Texas A&M's 18th bowl game in the school's football-playing history. The Aggies' first bowl appearance was in the Dixie Classic in 1922. It has played in the Sugar Bowl (1940), Cotton Bowl (1941, 1942, 1968, 1986, 1987, 1988), Orange Bowl (1944), Presidential Cup (1950), Gator Bowl (1957), Liberty Bowl (1975), Sun Bowl (1977), Bluebonnet Bowl (1977), Hall of Fame Bowl (1978), Independence Bowl (1981) and in the 1989 John Hancock Bowl last season, where Pittsburgh won 31-28.

The Holiday Bowl is the 12th different bowl game the Aggies have played in. Their overall record is 10-7, .588. That ranks them as the eighth winningest bowl team among schools with at least 15 appearances - behind USC, Notre Dame, Penn State, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Arizona State and Clemson.

This year's Holiday Bowl game will be BYU's 15th bowl appearance. The Cougars are 5-9 in their 14 bowl games to date, for a .357 winning percentage.