For 15 years the University of Hawaii football team has been nearly obsessed with beating BYU, an obsession born as much out of frustration as anything else. Year in and year out, despite having the homefield advantage in 8 of their last 10 meetings, Hawaii always came up short, if only barely. Four of their last five games had been decided by a touchdown or less.
It seemed only a matter of time and odds before Hawaii's turn would come, and then on Saturday night it did. In one fell swoop, as if the Rainbows gathered all the years' frustrations and unleashed them in one flawless game of football, Hawaii pounded BYU, at last.The Rainbow Warriors, transformed into the perfect football team for a night, beat 18th-ranked BYU 56-14 Saturday in Honolulu, coming at the Cougars with such speed and intensity that it was almost dizzying and certainly unstoppable.
The Rainbows scored touchdowns on eight of their first nine possessions, and then quarterback Garrett Gabriel mercifully left the game - with 11 minutes still to play. By then they led 56-7, and victory was thorough and complete. It was the biggest rout of BYU since 1970.
"We're not that good, and they're not that bad," said Hawaii Coach Bob Wagner, whose players doused him with a bucket of water as the game wound down. "It certainly is a great win. It hasn't sunk in yet. But the way we did it and the score was fantastic . . . I have tremendous respect for BYU. We've been close so many times and come up short. It's taken a lot out of me over the years."
"We've been coming over here a lot of years and when we finally let one out we do it up right, just like Utah last year," said BYU Coach LaVell Edwards, who gave the 'Bows their due. "Hawaii executed flawlessly. They played probably as well as I've ever seen them play."
The Rainbows are a rushing team who entered the game averaging just 151 yards passing a game, so what did they do against BYU? Gabriel, the 33rd-ranked passer in the nation, a man who had thrown for just 956 yards all season, completed 22 of 29 passes for a school-record 440 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 0 sacks and hardly a spiral all night. He riddled the BYU secondary with a flurry of wobbly passes, most of them to wideout Chris Roscoe, who turned BYU's secondary every which way but loose. Roscoe, who had caught just 20 passes all season, caught 8 against BYU for 158 yards and 1 TD. Then there was fullback Jamal Farmer, who rushed for a modest 58 yards but scored three touchdowns, one on an 83-yard screen pass.
"We had a good game plan," said Gabriel. "We knew we were quicker than BYU, but they were bigger . . . I never thought I'd be sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter enjoying that kind of lead."
The 'Bows started the game with a strange new no-huddle offense that stacked three receivers to one side. The Cougars were taken by surprise. Thus confused, they blew coverages on at least two touchdowns. No defender was even in the same area code when Roscoe scored the game's second touchdown on an 8-yard pass, and again when Jeff Newman hauled in a 45-yard TD pass in the second quarter.
Gabriel continually beat the Cougars with a variety of short passes, and then added a few new wrinkles - the option, the shovel pass - to add to the confusion. They finished with 622 yards, another school record.
"We never stopped them all night long," said Edwards.
And the Cougars simply couldn't hold the pace. Down 14-0 in the first quarter, they drove deep into Hawaii territory only to have quarterbck Ty Detmer lose a fumble at the 13. They closed the score to 21-7 early in the second quarter, when Matt Bellini, moments after making a 63-yard reception, scored on a 1-yard run. But they wouldn't score again until the final three minutes of the game, when Detmer threw a 23-yard TD pass to wideout Jeff Frandsen.
In the meantime, Detmer had been running for his life. Hawaii sacked him a school-record 10 times for minus-72 yards. Linebacker Mark Odom claimed four of the sacks, another school record. On one series alone, with the score 28-7, Detmer was sacked three consecutive times for minus-25 yards.
The Cougars, the nation's No. 2-ranked offense, netted just 372 yards (minus 55 rushing), well below their average of 539. Detmer, the nation's leading passer, finished with good numbers, completing 24 of 35 passes for 427 yards and 1 touchdown, but he also was intercepted twice by safety Walter Briggs while forcing the ball into double coverage.
"There is no justice in college football if we don't win another game or two and don't go to a bowl game," said Wagner, whose team is 6-2 overall - with all their wins coming at home - and 4-2 in Western Athletic Conference play.
As for the Cougars, they are 6-2 and 4-1. They trail only Air Force - 4-0 in league play - in the WAC championship race.
"It doesn't make a difference as far as the conference is concerned, because if we can win the rest of our games we will be the champions," said Edwards. BYU meets Air Force in two weeks in Provo. Air Force still must play Hawaii in Honolulu - on Dec. 9.
In the week to come the Cougars, who face Oregon Saturday, might want to work on at least some of the many weaknesses that were exposed Saturday night:
- The secondary. Several times this season the defensive backs have been burned, largely because they were unaware of when or where the ball was thrown - and never more than Saturday, when they defended with their back to the quarterback.
- Blitz control. If there's one crucial thing BYU has done better this year than in recent years, it's recognizing and responding to the blitz. Until Saturday. Hawaii blitzed and rushed hard all night. When Wyoming did that, the Cougars made them pay for it with screens, throw-backs, draw traps and two-step drops. BYU rarely did any of the above against Hawaii until it was too late.
But reflecting on Saturday night's game, Edwards was right when he said, "I don't think there is any one thing that made a difference."