The BYU football team came out Saturday afternoon frothing at the mouth wanting to send the Hawaii Rainbows back to their island paradise in pieces because:
A) The Cougars wanted to remain alone in first place in the WAC.B) The university president left his hospital bed to give a stirring pre-game pep talk.
C) A derogatory newspaper column from Honolulu this week called the Cougars "BYU impostors" because they weren't putting up their traditional big offensive numbers. Or:
D) All of the above reasons plus a few dozen others.
The correct answer, of course, is "D."
The result was a 45-7 shellacking of the `Bows at Cougar Stadium - and the final score was a bit deceiving.
It could have been worse.
"This has been a while coming," said Cougar coach LaVell Edwards.
BYU is now 4-3 overall and 4-1 in the WAC, while Hawaii fell to 3-4 and 1-3.
BYU hadn't been on the winning side of a blowout this season and had never, in 21 previous tries, beaten Hawaii as convincingly. The Cougars were just two seconds away from pitching their first shutout in three years. The Rainbows, meanwhile, came one successful desperation pass from going scoreless for the first time since the U.S. Bicentennial.
It almost looked like the Cougars had the game won before it even started and, thanks to a couple of extra motivating factors, perhaps they did.
First, a newspaper article from Hawaii critical of the Cougars was faxed to the BYU coaches. The coaches, naturally, let all the players know about the story.
"The article said we were clawless and toothless and weren't taking the bite out of teams and that Steve Sarkisian was just an average Joe," said Sarkisian, the Cougar quarterback. "It was a good motivator for us."
But there was even more incentive for the Cougs after BYU president Rex E. Lee got through talking to the troops. Lee, who is retiring as university president due to health concerns, spent the past week in the hospital with pneumonia. But he was released from the hospital so that he could speak to the Cougars before the game.
"You could say we won one for the Rexer," Sarkisian said.
Added safety Eddie Sampson, "After being in the hospital all week it showed he really cares about us to come out and talk to us. It gave us all some inspiration."
The Cougars came out smoking. After taking the opening kickoff, they marched down the field in nine plays and scored when Sarkisian hit receiver Mike Johnston for a 10-yard touchdown. The game was less than three minutes old.
The Cougar defense, meanwhile, bent a little but came up with the big plays when it needed them. BYU recovered five Rainbow Warrior fumbles for the game.
The Cougars played outstanding defense. But the offense was pretty spectacular as well.
Just how dominant was BYU? Here's one example: the Cougars, the nation's worst rushing team entering the game, ran for 255 yards, while Hawaii, the fourth-best running team in the country, had 147 yards on the ground.
Said Edwards, "We played good in all areas - kicking, defense and in running the ball."
Not to mention passing. Sarkisian completed 19 of 24 passes (79.2 percent completions) for 266 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Sarkisian found himself in an unfamiliar position of being on the bench during the entire fourth quarter. Freshman QB Paul Shoemaker saw his first action ever as a Coug when he mopped up the blowout.
The opening quarter ended with the score 7-0, but the Cougar offense took over in the second quarter. BYU entered the game averaging only 51 yards per game rushing, but had more than that on their second scoring drive alone. The Cougars 68 yards, all of them on the ground, to take a 14-0 lead. Mark Atuaia, Tefua Bloomfield and Hema Heimuli each had a run of 13 yards or better on the drive that culminated with a one-yard Bloomfield dive with 10:34 to play in the half.
The Cougars went ahead 21-0 six minutes later on a three-yard Sarkisian to Heimuli pass. The play that may have broken the Rainbow Warriors' spirits, however, came with just 12 seconds remaining in the half when Sarkisian hit Hawaii native Kaipo McGwire on a 36-yard post pass for a touchdown. Bill Hansen's extra point gave the Cougars a 28-0 lead at intermission.
The second half was much of the same. An 11-play drive set up a 46-yard field goal by Hansen to give the Cougs a 31-0 lead. BYU went on a 90-yard drive, with Bloomfield taking the ball the final 22, to take a 38-0 lead with 1:02 remaining in the third quarter.
The Cougar defense - led by linebackers Shay Muirbrook and Stan Raass - didn't let the 'Bows get much going, but the potential shutout looked lost when James Dye fumbled a punt and Hawaii recovered at the seven. But on third-and-goal Rainbow quarterback Glenn Freitas fumbled and Sampson recovered to thwart the threat.
BYU's final points, with Shoemaker as the quarterback, came on a 10-yard Bloomfield run. Bloomfield, a sophomore from Hunter High, rushed for 93 yards and three scores on just 10 carries.
BYU appeared headed to a 45-0 victory when Hawaii QB Johnny Macon hit Brendyn Agbayani for a 52-yard TD with two seconds left in the game.
The Cougars will host Tulsa next week in their final non-WAC game of the year.
GAME NOTES: The Cougars finished with 553 yards of total offense to Hawaii's 299 . . . The crowd was the biggest of the year, 64,680 . . . Tight end Chad Lewis suffered a sprained ankle after making a catch in the first quarter and did not return. Defensive starters Ed Kehl (ankle) and Dennis Simmons (shoulder) didn't play, but both are expected to be ready for next week's game . . . The Cougars will also have tight end Itula Mili and defensive tackle Mike Ulufale back for next week's game. Mili and Ulufale were suspended for four games due to BYU honor code violations.