It will be good memories being back and playing in that stadium. But it will also bring up some nightmares, too, probably. —Ty Detmer
HONOLULU — Gentle sea breezes. Golden beaches. Soothing waves. Swaying palm trees.
Yes, Hawaii is like paradise.
But for the BYU football program, Hawaii is also known as a place where dreams and celebrations can be ruined. Or come close to being ruined.
As the Cougars renew an old rivalry with the Rainbow Warriors Saturday (7 p.m., MST, CBSSN), offensive coordinator Ty Detmer knows all about that as he returns to Aloha Stadium.
“It will be good memories being back and playing in that stadium,” he said. “But it will also bring up some nightmares, too, probably.”
As a sophomore in 1989, Detmer and BYU got drilled at Hawaii, 56-14, ending a 10-game win streak for the Cougars in Honolulu. As a freshman, Detmer helped lead BYU to a 24-23 victory in Honolulu.
Then, in the final regular-season game of Detmer’s junior season in 1990, he experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in a matter of hours.
During the day, Detmer found out he had won the Heisman Trophy at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel in Honolulu. That night at Aloha Stadium, the Rainbow Warriors throttled the Cougars, 59-28.
“It was kind of surreal. The emotions and the build-up to (the Heisman) and then it was a big relief. Then your emotions kind of hit the floor,” Detmer recalled. “You could sit back and just relax and take a deep breath but now you’ve got to play a game. I just remember the start of that game it was almost like neither team had much energy. Then as we went along, they got momentum and got it going and we didn’t. It was similar to the year before. It was kind of a weird feeling going out and playing a game after all of that.”
In that contest in 1990, Detmer completed 22 of 45 passes for 319 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions. At one point in the second half, a Rainbow Warrior receiver struck a Heisman pose after scoring a touchdown, mocking Detmer and the Cougars.
Saturday, Hawaii would love nothing more than to end BYU’s miserable season with another loss.
Current Rainbow Warrior coach Nick Rolovich played a big role in another painful Cougar football memory. He was Hawaii’s quarterback when the two teams met on Dec. 8, 2001.
BYU entered the game undefeated (12-0) and ranked No. 9 in the nation. Days earlier, the Cougars had been eliminated from consideration by the Bowl Championship Series and they were playing without their newly crowned Doak Walker Award winner, Luke Staley, who suffered a season-ending injury the previous week at Mississippi State.
BYU wasn’t the only team that felt snubbed.
Unlike the Cougars, Hawaii (9-3) wasn’t going to a bowl game. Rolovich completed 29 of 53 passes for 543 yards and eight touchdowns as the Rainbow Warriors crushed BYU 72-45. It was the most points ever scored by Hawaii and the most ever surrendered by the Cougars.
BYU gave up two special teams touchdowns and seven turnovers. The Cougars fumbled nine times and lost six of them. Current BYU running backs coach Reno Mahe caught 14 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns in that game.
Current Hawaii wide receiver Dylan Collie, a BYU transfer, said Rolovich doesn’t need to talk to his players about that game.
“All you need to do is go into his office and you see a ball with the stats of a (72-45) victory, and you see the smile that comes across his face, he doesn’t need to tell you much,” Collie said. “You know it was a great game and he owns it. He wears that pride on his sleeve. And I love it.”
Immediately after that win, the Rainbow Warriors reveled in the magnitude of the moment.
"The governor should declare this a holiday," UH linebacker Chris Brown said. "From now on, this should be called, 'Beat BYU Day.'"
"We came out and beat Goliath," said UH receiver Ashley Lelie, who caught eight passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. "We beat up the bully."
Rolovich was a senior, meaning that game was his final one in a Hawaii uniform.
BYU’s quarterback in 2001, Brandon Doman, broke his ribs in the first quarter and the game got away from the Cougars in a hurry. It marked Doman’s first loss as a starter.
Prior to that 2001 game, BYU had beaten Hawaii 17 out of 20 times, with 11 of those victories coming in Honolulu.
BYU and Hawaii began playing in 1930, a series that continued during the 1950s and 1960s. When the Cougars and Rainbow Warriors were members of the Western Athletic Conference, they met frequently in Honolulu.
One of their most famous meetings here took place in 1984, when an undefeated BYU team invaded Aloha Stadium.
A heady, game-saving tackle by Cougar safety Kyle Morrell, who perfectly timed his jump over the line of scrimmage to tackle Hawaii quarterback Raphael Cherry near the goal line, helped preserve a key victory in a national championship season. BYU edged Hawaii, 18-13. Morrell’s tackle at Aloha Stadium is an iconic play in BYU history.
For decades, BYU and Hawaii have enjoyed a colorful rivalry. While there have been plenty of memorable games between the two schools, the rivalry has been intense off the field, too.
In 1998, BYU and seven other schools announced they were leaving to WAC to form the Mountain West Conference. Hawaii was left behind and people in Hawaii were angry.
In fact, then-Hawaii school president Kenneth Mortimer denounced the WAC breakup and vowed that the Warriors would never schedule games against the departing WAC schools, including BYU, ever again.
Six months later, after Mortimer left the school, Hawaii called BYU, asking if it would be interested in playing again. And they met in 2001.
BYU didn’t return to Honolulu until 2011, when the Cougars beat the Rainbow Warriors, 41-20.
Saturday marks the 30th meeting all-time between BYU and Hawaii. The Cougars lead the series, 21-8, including a 12-8 record in Honolulu.
BYU blanked Hawaii 47-0 in their last matchup in 2012 in Provo. The two teams are scheduled to meet on Oct. 13, 2018, in Provo.
No doubt, Hawaii fans are looking forward to Saturday’s game.
"This has always been a great football game for us," former Hawaii athletic director Hugh Yoshida once said. "BYU seems to bring out the best in us."
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Cougars on the air
at Hawaii (3-8)
Saturday, 7 p.m. MST Aloha Stadium
TV: CBS Sports TV
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM