Mention "the big game" this week in Hawaii and chances are most locals will know exactly what you are talking about.
Hurricane Kristy, which is scheduled to just miss the Big Island but will still likely cause some problems with high winds and rain late this afternoon, is not surprisingly the top story for local news outlets. But Saturday night's BYU versus Hawaii season opening football game isn't far behind.Newspapers, television broadcasts and radio stations are building the game up to Super Bowl proportions - even though on the Islands this particular matchup needs no extra hype. At Hawaii, like so many other WAC schools, BYU is the team everyone loves to hate.
One local radio station is sponsoring a "Beat BYU Bash" where Rainbow Warrior fans can pay $2 to whack a car painted BYU blue with a sledge hammer.
There is a relatively large LDS community in Oahu and several Cougars will have family and friends in attendance Saturday night. But BYU players know this is the biggest game of the year for the Rainbows and they are expecting most of the 50,000 fans to be all over them.
"I've never played (in Hawaii), but I've heard it's rough," BYU quarterback John Walsh said. "There fans supposedly curse at you and spit on you. As a player you just need to block that out and concentrate on getting the job done."
One reason for the ill-feelings some Hawaii fans have for BYU is that the Cougars routinely recruit away some of the best local talent. Seven members of the 1994 Cougars are from Hawaii and six of those players should see a considerable amount of action Saturday night.
"BYU always takes away some of the best players from Hawaii and Hawaii fans hate it," said BYU's starting defensive left tackle Mike Ulufale, a Hawaiian. "They don't understand why we would want to go away, but we have a better opportunity for us at the Y."
Mark Atuaia, a sophomore fullback for BYU, was the Hawaii prep athlete of the year his senior season. He's the backup to Hema Heimuli, who grew up in Oahu before moving to Provo during high school. Starting strong safety Jack Damuni, wide receiver Kaipo McGuire and tight end Itula Mili are also from the 50th state.
Incidentally, Hawaii doesn't have a single Utahn on it's roster.
For years the Cougars dominated the series, adding to the Hawaii fans' dislike for BYU. From 1978 to 1988, BYU beat the Rainbows 10 consecutive times - and eight of the wins were in Honolulu. Often the games were close - even BYU's '84 national championship team needed a goal-line stand highlighted by Kyle Morrell's diving tackle to down the Rainbows 18-13 - but BYU always found a way to win.
Until 1989, when the Cougars lost 56-14. Then in 1990, hours after Ty Detmer learned he had won the Heisman Trophy the Rainbows celebrated his victory by drubbing the Cougs 59-28. A 36-32 loss in '92 put the Cougars on a three-game losing streak in Hawaii.
Kansas downed the Cougars 23-20 in the '92 Aloha Bowl to make BYU zero for its last four games in Honolulu.
"Hawaii is a tough place to play, but we're going to be ready," Cougar halfback Jamal Willis said. "We want to put last year behind us and the Hawaii game is where we will start."
Last season the Rainbows lost a heart-breaker in Provo, 41-38, in the second game of the year. The setback seemed to put the Rainbows in a tailspin they never recovered from, as they dropped from WAC champs in '92 to eighth place (3-5) in '93.
"No matter what happens, we can't let the season ride on one game," Hawaii offensive lineman Kelly McGill told the Honolulu Star Bulletin. "We have to remember that it is just one game. That's tough to do. I think after we lost to BYU last year a lot of guys though the season was over."
Although they don't need it, Hawaii fans have another reason to be excited about Saturday's game. It will be their last chance they have to see (and scream at) the Cougars for several years. Next season the Rainbows will play in Provo, while the schools won't meet at all in '96 and '97 after the WAC expands to 16 teams.