Saturday, the Cougars (8-3) for the first time will return to the scene of that disaster, Aloha Stadium, where on Dec. 8, 2001, Hawaii crushed eighth-ranked and undefeated BYU 72-45 behind a spectacular performance by quarterback Nick Rolovich, who, oddly enough, is now Hawaii's offensive coordinator.
The Cougars and Warriors are hoping that Saturday's 5:30 p.m. MST game to be televised by ESPN2 marks the rekindling of what was once one of the hottest rivalries in the West, if not the country. In May, BYU and Hawaii agreed to play almost every year through 2020.
"BYU is a great program, and it used to be a great rivalry," said Hawaii coach Greg McMackin. "Most of [BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's] players and my players were in elementary school when it was a big rivalry, but people in the Islands, the 30- and 40-year-olds, they know it is a rivalry."
A rivalry with a colorful past, full of memorable games and memorable plays, such as the 1984 game when the Cougars eked out an 18-13 win when Cougars safety Kyle Morrell timed the snap perfectly, leaped over Hawaii's line and the goal line and grabbed Raphel Cherry by the top of his jersey and shoulder pads to stop a quarterback sneak.
Then there were the 1989 and 1990 games, contests that really got BYU's attention that these were more than just run-of-the-mill WAC games for the Warriors. BYU had won 10 straight games in the series before 1989, when it was walloped 56-14 at Hawaii. The following year, just hours after BYU quarterback Ty Detmer won the Heisman Trophy, Hawaii delivered another beatdown, 59-28.
"It is just a big game for them, because there are a lot of people [at BYU] who played [high school football] in Hawaii, like myself," said BYU senior defensive tackle Simote Vea, a product of Kahuku High.
It is the first meeting since BYU downed Hawaii 35-32 in Provo in 2002 to get a measure of revenge a very small measure, actually for that 2001 humiliation.
The Warriors will have plenty of incentive Saturday, and not just because BYU is across the field. McMackin's crew needs to win to play in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
"What makes it a rivalry is that we recruit against each other," McMackin said. "There are a lot of friends on both teams. There are all kinds of relatives on both teams. So it makes for a great game. ... Everybody is excited about the game."
Although BYU doesn't recruit in the Islands quite as much as it used to, Mendenhall said that's one of the reasons why the Cougars were eager to restart the series with Hawaii when they went independent.
"If a young man comes here and plays, let's say it is four seasons, the chance to go home twice, and have his family see him play? I think that's a big deal," Mendenhall said. "It has also been part of the strategic plan you will see going forward, not necessarily this year for the destinations where we play and trying to open up recruiting areas just through exposure."
Vea, from Hau'ula, estimates 15-20 BYU players have ties to Hawaii. Others don't know what all the fuss is about. Defensive back Joe Sampson, for instance, said Monday that "is just another game for me ... I haven't heard any of the horror stories. I am sure I will later."
And running back Bryan Kariya was only vaguely aware of what happened to Doman and Co. 10 years ago. The Cougars were without star running back Luke Staley, injured the previous week at Mississippi State, Doman was injured in the first half and left the game for good, and BYU knew it was heading to the Liberty Bowl after getting turned away from the Bowl Championship Series despite its unblemished record.
"I haven't looked back at that history. ... I didn't follow BYU football back then as I do now, so that sounds familiar, but we don't want it to happen this time," Kariya said.
Will the rivalry burn hot again? Mendenhall hopes so, saying several times this season that if the Cougars can't play longtime rival Utah to end the regular season, Hawaii would be his top choice.
"There are a lot of LDS people in the Islands, and with ties to BYU," he said. "At one point [Aloha Stadium] used to be full maybe not at any other time during the season except the BYU game. ... I would love to have the last game of the season have special significance before [our] bowl game. ... That was the intent, anyway. Whether we can get that pulled off or not, I am not sure."
Memorable Hawaii-BYU football games
Date Result Comment
Sept. 6, 2002 BYU 35, UH 32 Cougars get a tiny measure of revenge in Provo
Dec. 8, 2001 UH 72, BYU 45 Warriors spoil BYU's perfect season with merciless beating
Sept. 3, 1994 BYU 13, UH 12 Cougars beat Warriors six straight times in the 1990s
Dec. 1, 1990 UH 59, BYU 28 A beatdown just hours after Ty Detmer won Heisman Trophy
Sept. 22, 1984 BYU 18, UH 13 Kyle Morrell's phenomenal goal-line stop preserves win
BYU at Hawaii
P Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
TV • ESPN2
More coverage • BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said that it will pretty much be junior quarterback Riley Nelson's decision whether he plays Saturday. > D3