PROVO — As they prepare for this Saturday’s game, BYU and Hawaii are in a situation they haven’t experienced since they were rivals in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Rainbow Warriors (6-1) are coming into this meeting with a better record than BYU (3-3). As Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist Ferd Lewis pointed out, that hasn’t happened since 1992.
"The place they used to call QB-YU as a factory for pumping out prolific passers for decades, going so far as to pose quarterbacks coming out of a machine in promotional material, has become, well, nobody is too sure what it is these days.
"But it is unlikely the sainted LaVell Edwards, whose namesake stadium they play in, would recognize them. Ranking 104th in passing offense (189.5 yards per game) among 129 Football Bowl Subdivision members, 117th in scoring offense (21.2 points) and 124th (306 yards) in total offense, this is no longer the institution that Edwards had put in the forefront of offensive football.
"The fact is BYU has been just a middlin’ team, 3-3 this year and 16-16 overall since 2016."
The Hawaiian columnist wrote that BYU is no longer the “scourge” of the WAC or the “dominating force” of the MWC, and it’s not even one of the two best teams in Utah anymore.
"But these Cougars have their problems in several areas, and the letters B-Y-U no longer are being employed to stand for Beat You Unmercifully.
"The top two positions there are occupied by schools up north — Utah, with seven in a row over BYU, and Utah State, the latter having handed the Cougars their second loss in as many years last week, 45-20.
"Getting dominated by then-No. 11 Washington 35-7 was one thing, but being pushed around by the Aggies in Provo on national TV was quite another. It stands as the low point of a season that has quickly turned south after a 24-21 upset of then-sixth-ranked Wisconsin four games ago. And the performance at the quarterback position has drawn much of the flack."
Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich was part of the 2001 Warriors squad that beat BYU 72-45 to spoil the Cougars' undefeated season. He teared up telling his players about that game and other big Hawaii moments against the Cougars.
Though not quite as emotional as last year, Rolovich reminded his players again leading up to this ESPN2-televised duel.
"Our guys just want to get out and play and play the best they can. It will be a great environment," he said during a recent interview. "These guys don’t even understand the history, just like I didn't understand the history when we played in 2001, but if we get a win up there, we come home Sunday, they’ll understand how much this game means to this community."
Linebacker Jahlani Tavai got a taste of the BYU-Hawaii rivalry last year when the Cougars won 30-20 in a battle of struggling teams in Honolulu.
"I'm pretty sure this whole team is excited," Tavai said at practice this week. "Coach has really emphasized how much of a rivalry it is. Last year was my first year experiencing it. There was more blue in our stadium than there was green and black."