BYU's Holiday Bowl history grows ever stranger.
This time around, it was the passing team from Provo getting outpassed by the running team from Texas en route to a 65-14 stomping Saturday in the Sea World Holiday Bowl at Jack Murphy Stadium.
Remember Hawaii, that island paradise where BYU gave up a school-record 59 points to open the month of December? Well, the Cougars topped the untoppable this time, with a record for most points, the fewest points scored by a BYU team since last year's visit to Hawaii, and 680 yards total offense allowed.
It didn't help that BYU's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Ty Detmer, suffered two shoulder separations, but the rout started before Detmer left the first time.
And while Detmer was disarmed, Aggie quarterback Bucky Richardson played the game of his career, scoring touchdowns passing, running and receiving. With starting defensive backs Tony Crutchfield and Norm Dixon injured and unable to play, Richardson passed for 168 yards in the first half, more yards than he had passed for in all but one entire game this season. His overall performance earned him offensive player of the game honors.
Aggie Coach R.C. Slocum said it was Richardson's best game ever, and BYU Coach LaVell Edwards said he wasn't surprised by the junior QB's performance.
"I thought he was a good player going into this game," Edwards said.
The other Heisman Trophy candidate on the field, Aggie tailback Darren Lewis, had to be reinserted to reach the 100-yard rushing plateau. Ordinarily, such a move in a blowout game might raise questions of bad taste, but Aggie Coach R.C. Slocum did so many things to raise those kinds of questions that the Lewis move wasn't even noticed.
For example, leading 44-14 in the fourth quarter, with BYU's pulse only detectable by the most sensitive instruments, Slocum allowed his team to continue passing the ball while adding three more TDs.
Not that those three late scores made any difference. This game was effectively over early in the third quarter when Aggie linebacker William Thomas fell on Detmer again and Detmer's right shoulder separated. That left the BYU quarterback without any more shoulders to separate, so he left the game. This is not criticism of BYU backup QB Joe Evans, but the game was over at that point. Or sooner.
At the start, it appeared that this was going to be one of those games BYU is famous for, where the other team can't stop it and it can't stop the other team. The Aggies' opening 80-yard drive took 13 plays and 51/2 minutes, and A&M gained yardage on every play. It ended with fullback Robert Wilson diving over the right side for the touchdown.
BYU responded with a drive that required less time (2:43) and fewer plays (seven), but ended the same way, with a TD. This time it was Detmer passing to Chris Smith in the back of the end zone.
The score was 7-7, the game was eight minutes old, and a 45-45 finish didn't seem far-fetched. A&M was running the option to perfection, and Detmer was getting enough time to pass.
On A&M's next possession, the Aggies tried to give BYU some momentum. A bad pitch by Richardson forced the Aggies to punt, and BYU had a chance to go ahead. But on first and 10 at the 39, Detmer got greedy. He rolled right, and just as he was about to go down, he tossed the ball back over his left shoulder toward a receiver. The ball was deflected by a BYU player into the hands of A&M linebacker William Thomas, who was chosen defensive player of the game.
Four plays later, Lewis ran left, found a hole and scooted into the end zone standing up. Aggies 14, Cougars 7.
BYU's next drive ended on a bizarre play. From the A&M 47, Scott Charlton made a spectacular, juggling catch and fell down at about the one-yard line. The play was called back, however, because Charlton had stepped out of bounds while running his route. Afterward, BYU Coach LaVell Edwards suggested that Detmer's interception and the Charlton play were the key moments in the ballgame.
A&M's next drive resulted in a touchdown on a trick play, a pitch by backup quarterback Lance Pavlas to starting quarterback Bucky Richardson, who rambled in over the right tackle.
Then things got really ugly for the Cougs. On the first play of their next possession, Detmer rolled right and passed back across field. As he released the ball, Thomas buried him. The play was botched as a lineman got in the way of the receiver, and Detmer got up with his left arm hanging limp at his side. Two plays later BYU tried to punt but the snap went over Earl Kauffman's head. Kauffman alertly batted it out of the end zone to keep it from being an A&M touchdown, but it was still a safety and the Aggies picked up another two points.
And while all that was going on, Detmer was heading for the locker room.
Moments later, it was announced that Detmer had a shoulder separation.
With Detmer in the locker room, A&M mounted a BYU-like drive, going 75 yards in five plays. The key play was a 55-yard pass to Cornelius Patterson over the fingertips of a diving Derwin Gray, but the killer was on first and 10 at the 21, when Richardson pitched to Lewis running left, then snuck around the right side where Lewis hit him with a TD pass. The Aggies were starting to look like BYU; the Cougs were starting to look like one of BYU's usual hapless victims.
BYU backup QB Joe Evans started the next possession, handing off to Peter Tuipulotu for three yards, and then Detmer returned to surprisingly subdued cheers from the crowd. His first pass went right into the hands of A&M's Larry Horton, but Horton dropped it. Nine plays later BYU faced fourth and six at the A&M 43, and Detmer made his second huge mistake. With just more than a minute left to play in the half, he took the snap and ran back . . . and back . . . and back, finally getting tackled by Quentin Coryatt afer a loss of 32 yards. A personal foul on A&M made the Aggies start on the 45-yard line, but that didn't stop them from scoring five plays later to make it 37-7. BYU ran a couple plays to end the half, including a desperation pass into the end zone, but like most everything else they had tried, it didn't work.
BYU's only score of the second half came, like its only score of the first half, on its opening drive. A personal foul by an Aggie during an Earl Kauffman field goal gave the Cougars a second chance, and on second down Evans found Brad Clark all alone in the right side of the end zone to make it 37-14.
Then came the real test: Could the BYU defense stop the A&M offense? Nope. They stopped them for one series, and gave up only one touchdown in the third quarter, but the offense was sputtering so badly by this point that it wasn't enough. And A&M added those three fourth-quarter TDs against the first-string BYU defenders.
There were few highlights in that second half, unless you're an Aggie fan. BYU offensive lineman Brian May and A&M defensive lineman Jayson Black were ejected for fighting; and Chris Smith caught a 60-yard pass from Evans only to have it stripped away and recovered by the Aggies.
And despite the magnitude of this loss, Edwards said he wasn't ready to write off this season.
"It's a real shame to end it like this, with back-to-back losses, but the bottom line is still that we went 10-3," Edwards said.
"We just got our butts kicked, and that's going to happen, I don't care who you are," he added. "We've certainly done or share of it."
But not this time.