Late-game heroics had become a staple for the BYU football team, but the Cougars ran out of tricks against the Hawaii Warriors. Led by special teams play and an aerial assault, the Warriors knocked off previously unbeaten BYU 72-45. The loss in front of a sell-out crowd ended BYU's dreams of an undefeated season.
Hawaii jumped out to an early lead behind two kick returns for touchdowns by Chad Evans, all in the first quarter. Evans took the opening kick all the way to the BYU 32-yard line, returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown and for an encore, returned a kickoff the length of the field for a touchdown.
"The key to our loss was early special teams play on our kickoff coverage," BYU head coach Gary Crowton said. "The other key was the turnovers."
BYU lost six fumbles and threw one interception, and it seemed the turnovers would come just when things were looking good for the Cougars.
"I am disappointed because of the turnovers," Crowton said. "There is no excuse for that."
Almost all hopes were dashed for the Cougars by the end of the third quarter, when Hawaii receiver Ashley Lelie caught an 80-yard touchdown pass to take a commanding 58-31 lead. Both teams scored two touchdowns in the final quarter and the Cougars couldn't put a dent in the Warriors' huge lead.
Senior quarterback Brandon Doman lost for the first time as the starting quarterback at BYU. Doman's record coming into the game was 14-0, but Doman took an early exit from the Hawaii game after injuring his ribs. Charlie Peterson played well in his place, passing for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Third-string quarterback Todd Mortensen also saw some playing time and threw a touchdown pass to Reno Mahe in the fourth quarter.
When BYU scores 45 points, amasses more than 600 yards and holds the ball for more than 37 minutes, the Cougars usually end up with a win. But the Warriors had an answer for everything the Cougars had to offer. The 72 points are the most points the Cougars have ever given up in a single game.
"We knew going in that they were rolling," Crowton said. "They came out and they executed on special teams early and we didn't."
Despite the loss, Mahe provided another amazing performance, lining up in the backfield and as a receiver. Fighting a hip pointer and an injured knee, Mahe had 14 receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns. It marked the second straight week Mahe caught for more than 180 yards. Mahe fought through the injuries to rush for 69 yards on eight carries.
"Stats really don't matter though except for the win-loss one," Mahe said. "Hats off to them though, they were the better team today."
The hole the Cougars dug for themselves early in the game proved too much to overcome. BYU trailed by 21 at halftime after failing to score in the second quarter. The Cougars refused to give up, but the 35-point second half still wasn't nearly enough.
"I am very proud of these young men," Crowton said. "Obviously, I'm not happy with losing, but I don't want to dwell on it. I want to move on."
The Cougars will conclude their season in the Liberty Bowl against nationally ranked Louisville. The game will take place New Year's Eve in Memphis.
THE STREAK CONTINUES
With Matt Payne's 44-yard field goal in the first quarter, the BYU Cougars continued the streak of consecutive games without a shutout. The streak now is at 337 games, with the last shutout coming against Arizona State way back in 1975.
Despite trailing 21-10 after one quarter, the Cougars controlled the ball for an amazing 12:44 in the first stanza. It easily marks the most the Cougars held on to the ball for any quarter during the season. For the game, BYU controlled the ball for 37:39, the most time the Cougars held the ball for the season.
Aaron Francisco's over-the-shoulder grab of a Nick Rolovich pass continued BYU's streak of having at least one interception in each game this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS ISSUES
Hawaii receiver Chad Owens had a field day on BYU's kick coverage teams. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown and a punt for a touchdown, all in the first quarter. The punt return for the touchdown marked the first time BYU has allowed a punt return for a touchdown since a 1987 loss to New Mexico. The last time an opponent took a kickoff all the way back was in 1998 when Daniel Jones from Utah took it all the way in 1998. Owens also opened the game off with a 64-yard kickoff return to set up Hawaii's first scoring drive.
MOST POINTS EVER...FOR THE OPPONENT
After rewriting scoring record books at BYU most of the season, the Cougars came up on the wrong end of today's scoring record. Hawaii's 72 points is the most points by an opponent ever. The previous high was 68 by UCLA in 1993.
MOST PLAYS EVER
Having to play catch-up most of the game, BYU's offense was on the field for the majority of the game. BYU set a record with 102 plays from scrimmage. The previous high was 101 against Utah State in 1976.
Both teams had a hard time holding on to the football in today's game. BYU lost six fumbles and Hawaii lost four fumbles. Each team threw an interception as well.
Brandon Doman, Charlie Peterson and Todd Mortensen all threw touchdown passes for the Cougars. Doman sat most of the second half after being taken out of the game because he hurt his ribs.
Provo (Dec. 4, 2001) -- BYU head coach Gary Crowton addressed media at the Tucanos BYU Coaches Luncheon about this week's game against Hawaii. Crowton also talked extensively concerning his reaction about not being included in the BCS bowl games. Following are excerpts from his opening statement and the ensuing question and answer session.
We are excited about the win over Mississippi State first of all. We thought it was a great atmosphere and a fun game. We played hard and it was loud. Watching Jackie Sharrill on the other sideline was fun. It was just a good game and the guys played well and it was nice to win it the way we did. I was really happy the way the defense got that last stop and the offense took the ball right down their throats and we got the field goal. We just showed a good team effort. All three phases of the game, at the end of the game, when we needed them made plays. We are looking forward to getting after Hawaii. They are an outstanding football team and we need to play well because it's tough to go into Hawaii and play them at Hawaii because of the time difference. They have got a good rhythm right now and we just have to be at our best.
Q: How does being shunned by the BCS affect recruiting?
Q: Well, the thing about the BCS that is frustrating to me, and I don't know if this is going to answer your question. The thing about the BCS is that every once in awhile you are going to have great team if you are not in the BCS. Whether it be us right now or it be Tulane when they went 12-0, or Marshall was undefeated one year. Those are teams that have opportunities to go undefeated. We haven't done that yet, we still have Hawaii. The reason I'm saying this before, I wouldn't even talk about it, is because we have been dropped from consideration for these bowls. Every once in awhile you have that special kind of team. Those teams deserve an opportunity to see how good they really are. I have great respect for the SEC. I have great respect for the Big Ten and the Pac Ten and all of those conferences. There is a lot of good football. I never said there hasn't been. But I think we are an outstanding football team. I really do. I look at us from a football perspective and I believe we have outstanding linemen, outstanding tight ends, a quarterback that is playing really well and a good receiver that is nationally ranked right now. Defensive ends are going to have opportunities to move on and a linebacker has an opportunity. Our corners are playing very well. We are an outstanding football team. I'm not saying we are perfect or anything like that or the best team in the country. I just think we are right up there, and when you get up there and you have no place to go, it's frustrating. That's a hard thing and it's not just BYU it's any team. There is no way that six conferences should control all the money and all the outcomes. I just don't think that's fair to football throughout the country. Again, if there is a playoff system and they don't feel our conference is that good, they can seat us low. I have no problem with being seated low and playing a tough team in a playoff system. If you lose, you lose and you go home. You are done. You know you did your best and you got as far as you could and it's over. But if you win you keep playing. If you are going to declare a national championship, you have to earn it by playing. Teams are losing and they are still fighting in there. Fresno State beats Colorado and Colorado still has a chance. Then why doesn't Fresno have a chance after they lost to Boise. Fresno beat Colorado they beat Wisconsin and they beat some of those other teams. Why don't they have an opportunity? Because once you are out of those conferences, you lose one game and you lose all opportunities. And I just don't think that is the best thing for college football. I did not like the way they told us. I thought that was wrong to our players because our players are fighting for an undefeated season. We're 12-0 right now, we're playing a game to go 13-0. There was a shot, there was a small shot and I understood that. But you don't know what is going to happen. Hawaii is 8-3, and they've beaten their top-ranked team. They give Hawaii no credit for that victory. If we go in there and win that game, they don't give you any credit for victories. I feel bad for Hawaii. They should be in a bowl game. They're 8-3 and don't have a bowl opportunity at this point. As I look at what's right in college football, there are a lot of great things in college football. But there are some things that we need to do to make it better and we can. That's how I feel about the BCS. How does it hurt our recruiting? I don't know if it hurts us in recruiting because I'm going fight to be back up there and in the face of the BCS again next year and the year after and the year after and as much as I can. That's what I do. I'm a coach and I try and win every game. As far as it hurting us in recruiting, maybe a BCS conference will go in and say you can play for a national championship at our school but you can't at theirs. I still don't believe that. I still think there is enough sense in some people that if you just keep fighting something is going to happen.
Q: Have any recruits asked you specifically about the BCS?
A: Not yet, but we are still in our game preparation mode. I have not had the chance to be on the road yet for house visits. I will make my first two in Hawaii this week and I will make three or four next week.
Q: Do you think it makes it harder to sell your virtues of the team to a top-flight recruit when they know they can't play for the tops in college football?
A: I think that is used a lot in recruiting. I think BYU is a great university and has great things to sell. I think this is not going to last for a long time. The way it is now will not last forever, I don't know how long it will. There will be somebody standing in front of a pulpit talking like I am next year and the year after. I don't know who it will be, but every year you're looking for one. I think everybody's looking for that Cinderella darling. It started out being Fresno State and it ended up being us at this point. Who knows who it will be next year? People know the problem. It's not like I'm the first guy to notice. I just happen to be standing here because we are 12-0.
Q: Is the best strategy to fight the BCS or to, as you said, lighten your schedule?
A: I don't want to lighten the schedule. I've never wanted to lighten the schedule. Don't put words in my mouth in that area. What I have done with the schedule is be smart with the schedule. This year, you look at our schedule we had three teams in our conference that won bowl games last year, one of them beating a SEC team, Arkansas. A 6-5 UNLV beat a 7-4 SEC team. Also Air Force won at Fresno State in California, which is close to being a home game for them. Then also, Colorado State beat Louisville in Memphis where it is close to being a home game for Louisville. So our conference had three big wins last year. Then Mississippi State was picked as a top-20 team this year and they were ranked No. 16 when we were supposed to play them. We also picked a Pac-10 team that was supposed to have their best year in five years. So, you're saying it is a light schedule, going into the season it didn't look light to me. Then we're playing Tulane in a pre-season game. They were 6-5 last year and averaged 50 points a game their last three games of the year. So when I started this thing as a head coach following LaVell Edwards, I was scared to death of that schedule. Scared is not the word, I was concerned about the strength of our schedule. Now coming in there for 2003, on our schedule, we have Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Stanford and Georgia Tech. We also had LSU on that schedule. To me, that wasn't a smart schedule. We dropped LSU and we ended up keeping the rest of them. We've played seven road games this year. Seven. The nearest team in the top 20 played five, which was Oregon. The rest of them all played four road games. There are two teams that have one out-of-conference BCS games. I sat there at Louisiana Tech and couldn't get anybody to play me. I couldn't get Michigan to play me, I mean I tried to get everybody to play me at La. Tech when we were good and none of those guys would play me. The only team that would play me was Nebraska in the Eddie Robinson Classic and I salute him. He was under a lot of criticism because they said why should we play La. Tech when they are a real good team and they could beat you? So they didn't want to play us. So if you start talking like that about the schedule, I know about the schedule. I've been there. I've been a good non-conference independent team that nobody would play because we were good. No BCS team would play. I've been a bad independent team that everybody wanted to play that was in the BCS conference. Now, here I am in this conference right now and they are all telling me our schedule is not very strong. I don't see any of their guys flying to Hawaii after they play Mississippi State at Hawaii late in the year. It doesn't happen because they are smart in their schedule. This is what I feel like. I just want to get ready for Hawaii. That is what I'm supposed to do, is get ready for Hawaii. And that's what I'm trying to do. I'm in that meeting getting ready for Hawaii, and I'm getting phone call after phone call after phone call from people that hate the BCS and that are complaining and saying that you guys have been taken advantage of. As I'm looking at that, it's a distracting thing. Then, I'm trying to get our guys ready because are guys have a chance to be 13-0 and play an 8-3 team, which will strengthen our schedule, it should strengthen our schedule. And before the game starts, they say you have no consideration. Now, what they're saying is they don't care about the WAC, they don't care about the MWC, they don't care about anybody other than this right now. They are completely taking you out of the picture. What else can you do with a football team? What else can you do but be 12-0 with your schedule? I know you look at some of these schedules. I say I give respect for that. But every single conference doesn't have a championship team in that conference. I mean there are a lot of teams in those conferences that have down years. Just because they have a name, it doesn't mean they are a great football team. I know that, I've beaten Alabama when we were 28 point underdogs, I have beaten Penn State when we were 21 point underdogs at Boston College. I've been there. I've lost to Arkansas when we were 35-point underdogs by three. I know what is out there. I've played in those conferences. Mississippi State played great football, that's the best football they've played the last two games of the year. They changed quarterbacks, they were a whole new team. Lee Corso sat there and said there was no way we were going to win that game, and we won the game. Then everybody says well, you were supposed to win it, they were a 3-7 SEC team, big deal. But they know how good they are. Auburn wins by two, Arkansas wins by three and Alabama wins close. They know how good Mississippi State can be. And they played them at home. I am getting fired up. I felt like if LSU beats Tennessee, there was a possibility as I looked at the scenarios because I felt like it didn't make sense for a third place conference team to be playing for a national championship. Nebraska is an outstanding team and I actually think they are a better team than Colorado. What happened though is when Nebraska had to win, they didn't and Colorado did. Colorado is the champion. I don't want to get angry over this, but I just think it's not right. I've been in I-AA, I'll tell you how it is in I-AA. If you win your conference you go. If you don't win your conference, there are three or four at-large teams that go. You are just hoping that you are one of those teams and you sit and wait if you are an at-large team. Or you go and win your conference and you know you are in it. Then you play until you lose. In the NFL, if you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. They have a great system in the NFL. They have all sorts of tie-breakers to get in. If you get in there, everything goes out the door, it doesn't matter what your record is, it matters if you are playing hard down the stretch like Colorado is. Then you play until you lose. That's championship football to me. The Bowl Championship Series is not championship football to me. Get the best teams that we can make the most money off of, and that is what is happening. It's not championship. The conferences are for a championship. MWC, that's a championship. SEC, that's a championship. All those are championships, and I respect those. The way it is for a national championship, the way it is this year, is not a true championship. It's subjective.
Q: How do you feel about the possibility of a lawsuit?
A: I don't know about the lawsuit. My only thinking is this, you know it is not right. Everybody in this room who thinks it is perfect, raise your hand. (Nobody raised their hand) That's what I thought. I don't think any of you think it is the right way it should be. I've heard numerous times since this thing started people say, I hope so-snd-so loses so it screw up the BCS. I've heard that over and over. So my whole thing is here we are 12-0. Now I hope we end up 13-0, we're going to fight to be 13-0, but that's not the point. The point of the matter is this, you know the system is not right. You have the pens, you make the most of it and let's get it corrected. The media can do that. They are the strongest source. If we have to go to lawsuits and all that, I don't like that kind of stuff. We don't need to do that. Let's just get it right. Let's just have a great national championship opportunity for those teams to play and do it out on the field. That's the only thing I ask for. I just happen to be the guy standing there. I probably shouldn't say anything until we go 13-0. There is a possibility we could lose this game. Whether we lose or not though, it is still not right.
Q: Talk about the Luke Staley situation. Will you have Ned Stearns line up as halfback or will Reno Mahe get some action there or will you run formations that don't have a halfback?
A: I will probably do all of those. I don't want to give Hawaii my hand as to what we are going to do, I want them to be game-planning trying to figure out what they are going to do. Maybe we'll do a little bit of all of those. We are going to miss Luke, but I'm glad it is not a career-ending situation. I'm glad it is something he didn't need surgery and it is something that can heal up. I feel very confident that with his work ethic, he will be ready for the bowl game.
Q: Does your game plan change at all with this game being on artificial turf?
A: No. We practice on artificial turf, I know it's not the same, but there are some similarities, so we do have a little bit of feel for it, which we haven't had in the past. I think we will be all right with the turf. I don't think that will be a factor.
Q: Hawaii has been kind of a snake pit for BYU before. What can you say about that?
A: That's the scary thing about it. That's why I was frustrated when they made that announcement. Here it is, it's not a conference game. In reality, the game means nothing when it comes to conference championships or bowl games. All it is is a pride game. And we are coming in there and we want to do the best we can, to be the best we are capable of being. That's why I really wasn't happy when the BCS came out. They are good. They are good down the stretch. They've beaten BYU at times when BYU was really good. For them this is a huge game. This is a huge game for us, don't get me wrong. It's a rivalry for Hawaii to play Brigham Young University. It's going to be packed and there is going to be yelling and screaming and it's going to be a great atmosphere.
Q: Any comments about June Jones and how he has turned the football program around?
A: I've had a chance to see June Jones before. I don't know him personally, but I've met him a couple of times. I'm sure he can't even probably remember. When he was with Atlanta, I went and watched him practice. He's a class person, has an outstanding mind, teaches well. I was very impressed with him.
Q: How much have you had to condense your week with the travel schedule?
A: I'm trying not to, I'm trying to use every minute. We're going to meet on the plane. We're going to watch our practice from tomorrow on the plane because it's a five-hour flight. I think we can get a lot done there because of the computers and everything that we have. When we go there, I will do some things with the quarterbacks that I usually do on a Wednesday night. I'm going to try and use as much time as I can. I just have to be flexible about where and how, but I think we will be all right.
Q: How do you feel about the Doak Walker Award possibilities for Staley?
A: I'm excited for Luke. I think he deserves it. Whatever happens, I'm very appreciative of that committee for recognizing him, especially when he was not an early candidate. That's meant a lot to me. It's showed me they want the best players out there. Him and Doman, really there are a lot of awards that they weren't pre-season candidates for and now they are on those lists. That just shows they are looking for the best players from every level. I hope he wins it and I think he's deserving of it. We'll just have to wait and see on Thursday.
Q: Have you thought much about your own chances of winning coach of the year?
A: I don't think I have a chance.
Q: Why not?
A: There are a lot of good coaches out there. Thanks though.
Q: Since Hawaii changed quarterbacks, they are on an offensive roll. What can you do to stop them?
A: I don't know, sack him I guess. They've done a great job. I think in the last three games or so, they've thrown for 500 yards or something like that. They've got some good receivers and they are playing well and they play at home all the time. They play with a lot of confidence. Early in the year, they lost to Nevada at Nevada because it's hard to come out and play up there in the altitude. People forget about things. I think they were close before, they were getting on a rhythm but they just weren't quite there. As the season went on and they continued to practice they got in that rhythm. That new quarterback happened to be there and the whole team started to come together.
Q: How are your corners and their health?
A: Jernaro is pretty good. I feel pretty good about Jernaro. Brandon Heaney, his shoulder subluxed twice. It's in socket and they'll strap it down. It's very tender. Hopefully he'll be ready for the game, but it will be right up to game time. They say he can play, it will hurt a little bit. But hopefully it will stay in socket. If it keeps coming out, then they will have to do surgery. Jernaro was a little bit sore on Saturday, but he didn't re-injure it. They went after him a little bit too, knowing that he had been on crutches, which I would have done the same thing. They know what is going on. They did get after him, but he made some good plays. He was close in coverage all day and I think he'll be a little healthier this week because he didn't re-injure the leg and it's starting to heal a little bit more and more as the days go by.