SAN DIEGO Just a couple of hours before the start of Friday night's Holiday Bowl, BYU's Kirk Pendleton stood outside the BYU locker room talking about the Cougar strategy. "We've got gimmick plays, but we won't need them," he said. Pressed for an example, he said, "Well, we've got this one play where Eddie Stinnett takes a pitchout and acts like he's going to run a sweep and then throws a pass to Young."
Little did Pendleton know that about five hours later, that very gimmick play would win the sixth annual Holiday Bowl. For with 23 seconds left in the game, and BYU trailing Missouri 17-14, Stinnett threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Young for yet another remarkable, exciting Holiday Bowl victory, 21-17.
The Cougars seemed headed for defeat with five minutes left in the game. Holding a three-point lead, the Tigers recovered another BYU fumble. They drove easily upfield and appeared headed for a touchdown. But on fourth and one at the BYU 7-yard line, the BYU defense rose up and stopped fullback Eric Drain diving over the middle just inches short of the first down. Just 4:13 remained and 93 yards separated BYU from the goal line.
The stage was set.
If any bowl seemed a likely setting for such a finish, it is the Holiday Bowl. Four of the six games have now been settled in the final seconds by four points or less.
On first down, Young completed a 17-yard pass to Mike Eddo, who was playing his first game in almost two months after a shoulder separation. "He'll only make a token appearance in the game," Edwards had said. "He's not ready to play yet." But Eddo, as you'll see, figured in the game in a big way.
On second down, Young was sacked by Bobby Bell for an 11-yard loss. Bell, the game's defensive MVP, was in Young's hair all night, coming up with four sacks.
On the third down of The Drive, Young was on the run again. He spun free of the defenders and rolled left and, with more defenders coming at him head-on, he spotted Eddo standing absolutely alone at the Mizzou 40-yard line. He rifled the ball to Eddo, who snagged it for a 53-yard gain to the Mizzou 36.
On the next play Young threw a short screen pass to tight end Steve Harper for a gain of four, and then completed a short seven-yarder to Waymon Hamilton for a first down at the 25.
Only 1:42 remained.
Casey Tiumalu lost two yards on a draw and then gained nine yards on a screen pass, leaving the Cougars with a third and one. But Young was sacked by Robert Curry, leaving BYU with a fourth and 10 at the 25.
BYU never considered the tying field goal. "I don't like ties," said BYU coach LaVell Edwards. "In conference play, I might have considered it."
Instead, Young connected with Hamilton on a down-and-out pattern that put BYU just inches beyond the first-down marker.
And then the gimmick play. BYU has used such razzle-dazzle only sparingly this year. In fact, Stinnett's only other pass of the year resulted in a touchdown against New Mexico.
"We have them, but we just don't use them," said Pendleton before the game.
But they did this time. The play came down out of the press box from receiver coach Norm Chow. A fake right 28 QB screen left. Young shoveled the ball out to Stinnett sweeping to the right, then rolled out to the left. Suddenly, Stinnett stopped and threw a high, arching spiral that barely cleared the outstretched hands of Mizzou's Taft Sales. Young took the ball on a dead sprint at about the 15, smashed through one defender at the goal and bounced into the end zone.
"We have that play, but we've never used it," said Stinnett. "They were leaving the back side open, and they called it from upstairs."
Said Young: "I caught the second half of the ball, and as soon as I caught it, Adam (Haysbert) made a great block in the end zone that allowed me to make a move. I didn't know whether to go inside or out, so I went inside. We ran the play last week in practice and I dropped the ball."
The game officially ended when safety Kyle Morrell intercepted a desperation pass at his own five and then raced out of bounds and over to the stands to join the celebration.
"It's a Holiday Bowl, what else can you say about a finish like that," said Edwards. "Sometimes it seems like those things are meant to happen. The TD was a great call."
Said Mizzou coach Warren Powers: "It was a hard-fought game. BYU is an excellent team and deserved to win."
It was indeed a rough, heated battle, in which several players were injured including BYU's Brad Smith and Brandon Flint and Mizzou quarterback Marlon Adler, who left the game for good in the third quarter with a sprained ankle and his team leading 10-7.
Throughout the game, there were brief extracurricular shoving matches, not to mention several personal foul penalties and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Mizzou. In fact, the Tigers taunted Young after he threw one of his interceptions and again as the teams were jogging into their locker rooms at halftime.
But then these two teams didn't exactly strike up a friendship during the week anyway. The Tigers seemed to look down their noses at the Cougars and worse. On Monday, during team picture day, the two teams passed in the tunnel under the stadium when some of the Tigers players actually spit at the feet of the Cougar players and some of the spit was tobacco juice. BYU's Bob Armstrong, a reserve lineman, had a confrontation with one of Mizzou's players.
"They'd walk down the hall and try to elbow you," said Pendleton. "Usually the teams really get together and talk. These guys weren't like that."
All week long, at the various Holiday Bowl functions, the Tiger players told the press that they took BYU seriously, the Cougars were indeed a good team as if all this were necessary for the nation's ninth-ranked football team. But everywhere the Cougars went during the week, they got the feeling that Mizzou, in truth, wasn't impressed with its opponent.
Roger French, BYU's offensive coordinator, pulled into a gas station and overheard the station attendant ask two Mizzou coaches about the upcoming game. The Mizzou coaches, unaware of who French was, told the attendant, essentially, that BYU wasn't Nebraska, or Oklahoma and, well, they should be able to handle them, no sweat.
Said wide receiver Glen Kozlowski: "They don't have the respect for us they should." The reason, the Cougars believed, is because Mizzou doubted BYU's ability to play physical football.
"All week long, they said that we don't get physical and that makes me angry," said guard Craig Garrick. "These guys don't believe we deserve our ranking and they don't believe we have the No. 1 offense. The coaches have told us that we need to show them. Missouri's license plates have 'The Show Me State' on them. That's what we want to do show them. I feel like we really have something to prove."
The game was of course billed as a showdown between BYU's No. 1-ranked offense against Mizzou's No. 11-ranked defense. Standing on the sidelines just before the start of the game, BYU assistant coach Mel Olsen said, "I just hope their offense can't keep the ball from our offense."
As it turned out, that's exactly what happened. Mizzou had the ball 37 minutes, compared to BYU's 23 minutes. But the BYU defense wasn't to blame. The offense in particular, Young kept giving the ball back to Missouri on three interceptions and two fumbles. And the Tigers controlled it with the running of fullback Eric Drain, who gained 115 yards on 27 attempts to earn the game's offensive MVP award.
All 10 of the Tigers' first-half points came as a result of interceptions. Led by Bell, Mizzou sacked Young four times in the first half. When Young did get off his passes, they were often hurried and well off target. He threw three interceptions and had another would-be interception dropped. In all, Young, who was sacked six times, wound up completing 24 of 36 passes for 314 yards.
The tone of the game was set when Young was sacked by Bell on BYU's first offensive play. Two plays later Young tried to complete a pass to Harper in a crowd, and Mizzou's Jerome Caver intercepted it at the 43-yard line.
The Tigers then mounted an eight-play drive that led to a two-yard touchdown run by Eric Drain that put Mizzou on top 7-0 with 7:12 left in the first quarter.
On BYU's next possession Young threw another interception, this time to Taft Sales.
The Cougars started the second quarter off by driving 70 yards in just five plays for a touchdown. Young completed passes of 11 yards to Casey Tiumalu and 17 yards to Harper. Tiumalu ran 18 yards, and a subsequent personal foul penalty moved BYU to the 10-yard line. From there, Young dropped back three steps and then charged up the middle of the Mizzou defense on a quarterback draw for a touchdown and a 7-7 tie with 11:30 left in the half.
If Young seemed to have finally settled down, it was short-lived. Late in the second half, he threw a high, arching pass up the middle. Wide receiver Kirk Pendleton leaped high for the pass, but all he could do was tip it, and Mizzou's Reco Hawkins intercepted the ball at the Mizzou 40 and returned it to the 30.
The Tigers then drove to the 20-yard line, but on a third-and-one play BYU's Brad Smith threw Mizzou quarterback Marlon Adler for a one-yard loss. That forced the Tigers to settle for a 37-yard Brad Burditt field goal with 3:43 left.
Mizzou seemed to be driving for another score just before halftime, but BYU linebacker Todd Shell intercepted a deflected pass at his own 17-yard line with 25 seconds left.
The Cougars, thanks to an 18-yard pass completion to Glen Kozlowski, quickly moved to the Mizzou 36, but a motion penalty on the Kozlowski play nullified the gain and any chance BYU had for a long field goal attempt.
The Cougars started the second half off with yet another turnover. Harper caught a pass in the flat but then fumbled, and Mizzou's Tracey Mack recovered it at the MU 42. The Tigers were headed for another TD until Shell and Leon White slammed into John Redd to force another fumble and Jon Young recovered at the Mizzou 6.
BYU came up with nothing, though, when Lee Johnson missed a 39-yard not-even-close field-goal attempt.
But yet another Redd fumble this time stripped by Jim Herrmann and recovered by David Neff at the MU 32 gave BYU the ball back. On first down, Young threw a short pass to Stinnett circling out of the backfield and he raced in for the score to put BYU up 14-10 at the end of the third quarter.
With 10:49 left, Mizzou regained the lead, 17-14, on a two-yard TD run by Drain.