Once again, BYU has been burned by a team with greater motivation.
Back in September, BYU played an Oregon team that felt it had been neglected by the polls. The Ducks, eager to prove themselves worthy of recognition, blitzed the Cougars into submission.Saturday night, in the Sea World Holiday Bowl, it was Texas A&M's turn. Aggie Coach R.C. Slocum reminded his team at every opportunity that some unidentified BYU representative said the Cougars were disappointed about not getting to play a higher-ranked team. The Aggies ate up Slocum's line, then turned around and ate up BYU.
Too bad Slocum couldn't have used a similar motivational technique to beat Texas - or Baylor.
Too bad, also, that the BYU players couldn't find some means - artificial or otherwise - to motivate themselves.
Anyway, the 65 points racked up by A&M was the most ever recorded in a bowl game, surpassing Centre's 63 points against Texas Christian way back in 1921 in something called the Ft. Worth Classic.
This game, along with the Hawaii disaster, also marked the worst back-to-back performances ever by a LaVell Edwards-coached BYU team, a remarkable fact considering that just a few weeks ago there was speculation that this might be the best Cougar team ever.
Quarterback Ty Detmer offered a simple explanation.
"It was just one of those games," he said. "They were doing everything right and we did everything wrong."
But that's too simple, and really doesn't explain why a good team suddenly could do nothing right.
Linebacker Alema Fitisemanu said BYU was beat on the field, but said the problem was more widespread than that.
"We were not only outmanned, we were out-play-called and outcoached," Fitisemanu said. "Physically, we were a lot weaker than they were. They pushed us all night. We were `out-physicaled'."
Whether it was conditioning or injuries, the Aggies clearly had an edge in the physical department.
BYU halfback Matt Bellini made one catch before aggravating his ankle injury in the first half. He didn't return for the second half and apparently is due for surgery.
Linebacker Rocky Biegel played with a dislocated shoulder, which may explain why he made only two tackles, after averaging more than eight tackles in 12 regular-season games. Biegel, a junior, is also facing surgery.
Senior defensive backs Tony Crutchfield and Norm Dixon didn't play at all.
And then there's Detmer, with a grade 2 separation in his left shoulder, a grade 3 separation in the right. BYU trainer George Curtis said after the game that the injury wouldn't require surgery, and predicted it would take three to six weeks to heal fully. That's getting awfully close to spring practice.
For now, Detmer says the bowl blowout may make BYU a better team next year.
"You have to take the memory of something like this and use it to improve," he said. "We'll have a whole bunch of new faces next year; it will be fun to see what we can do."
One thing BYU might not get a chance to do now is play in the preseason Pigskin Classic game in Anaheim, Calif. The Cougars had been rumored to be a near-lock for the game weeks ago, based on the draw of having Detmer back, with Washington and Houston as potential opponents.
After BYU's last two games, however, one wonders if the people who choose the Pigskin Classic teams will have second thoughts about inviting the Cougars.
If they still do, though, wouldn't a BYU-Texas A&M rematch be intriguing?
COUGAR NOTES: At least one BYU defender had a good statistical game against A&M. Safety Derwin Gray, only a sophomore, had 11 tackles. Gray, incidentally, finished tied for second on the team in defensive points despite not starting until midseason . . . In case you'd like to watch BYU seniors in postseason all-star games, here's the lineup: Hula Bowl, Jan. 19 - tight end Chris Smith; East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 26 - Coach Edwards, Fitisemanu; Senior Bowl, Jan. 19 - offensive tackle Neal Fort; Japan Bowl, Jan. 13 - Fort; Martin Luther King All-America Classic, Jan. 28 - cornerback Brian Mitchell, offensive tackle Mike Keim . . . Bellini's injury may cause him to miss scheduled appearances in both the Japan Bowl and East-West game.