Hawai’i is No Paradise for BYU



After a decade, BYU is returning to the once familiar islands of Hawaii this weekend to take on an old rival.  Imagine if you were a member of the BYU football team.  Life would be pretty good.  A free trip to sunny, warm Hawaii while your fellow students are at home in cold, snowy Provo preparing for finals week.  The opponent?  A mediocre, 6-loss Hawaii Warriors team who will be playing without their starting quarterback.  What is going through your mind if you are a BYU football player?  Probably thinking this will be a nice vacation and an easy victory.  I’m assuming that is what a majority of the team is thinking.  I’m sure it is what most of the coaches are thinking.  It’s probably what most of the BYU fans are thinking.  I’m sure that is what Ty Detmer thought back in 1990.  It’s probably what Brandon Doman was thinking in 2001.  I mean, c’mon, its just Hawaii…
72 points later…
Time for all BYU fans, players, and coaches to wake up and smell the pineapple.  I don’t know about you, but I am still having nightmares of Chad Owens returning multiple kicks for touchdowns.  I still get sick to my stomach thinking about Nick Rolovich throwing 8 touchdown passes and racking up 543 yards through the air.  I still think about how wide open Ashley Lelie was all day long, and how he walked into the endzone twice on our exposed secondary.  The score 72-45 will forever be burned in my memory.  That day hurt.  I will never forget that pain.  The sad thing is, most of the players on BYU’s team probably were too young to even remember it.  Do you think coaches ever go back and pull out that game film and have the BYU players sit down and watch it?  I hope so.  If I were Coach Mendenhall, I would have my team watch that 2001 game every night before they went to sleep.  I would make sure they watched as June Jones and the Warriors ran up the score on the 7th ranked and undefeated team in the country.  I would make sure this BYU football team engrained in their mind the image of Hawaii celebrating that blowout victory over the Cougars and acting like they had just won the Super Bowl.
Then I would return the favor. 
Why are BYU fans so confident about Hawaii?  Ok, I get it, they are probably a different team this year than they were in 2001.  They are without their starting quarterback.  BYU’s defense is much improved and better coached than the 2001 squad.  Hawaii lost to Utah State and San Jose State, two teams that BYU has defeated this year.  BYU is favored by 8 points in the latest spread.  All of these reasons will give BYU fans, players, and coaches confidence and little worry of losing to Hawaii in Honolulu.  But let me tell you my friends, all that stuff means NOTHING to me. 
To the Cougars, Hawaii may be just another opponent.  To the Warriors, BYU is one of their biggest rivals and most hated opponent.  Hawaii is very similar to Utah when they prepare to play BYU.  When the Warriors take the field against Cougars, they turn into a “Super Human” team.  This is their Super Bowl.  This is the game that they circle on their calendar.  Hawaii fans and players are very aware of the Polynesian pipeline that BYU has with their state.  Almost all of the best football talent in the Aloha State is shipped to Provo on an annual basis.  Do you think that would give the Warriors some motivation to beating BYU?  If Hawaii is going to choose a rival for their school, who better than the team that treats this game as a recruiting tool for Hawaiian prospects.  Regardless of the fact that these two teams squared off against each other for decades in the WAC, this game means more to Hawaii than just an old conference foe.  This is war for the Warriors.
Despite all the hype and hatred towards BYU, Hawaii will be playing for more than just a win for rivalry’s sake.  Hawaii has plans to go bowling this post-season.  The Warriors are currently 6-6, and a win over the Cougars will make them Bowl Eligible.  This is another reason why I am hoping BYU doesn’t treat this team or this game like a cakewalk.  This is not just a tropical vacation.  If BYU is not prepared for a physical, intense game, then we all should prepare ourselves for a little déjà vu. 
Just ask Ty Detmer. 
Within hours after winning the Heisman Trophy in 1990, Detmer and the 10-1 Cougars walked out of Aloha Stadium with a 59-28 defeat at the hands of the 6-5 Warriors.  The previous season in 1989, Detmer and the 6-1 Cougars were embarrassed by a mediocre Hawaii team 56-14.  If you take those two games combined with the 2001 game, Hawaii has outscored BYU 187-87.  All three of these games, Hawaii was the underdog.  All three of these games, BYU was ranked and Hawaii was unranked.  And all three of these games would be blowout defeats for the Cougars.  Are BYU fans still confident?
I know a lot of people who read this will call me a bad fan, or a pessimist.  There is a difference between being a bad fan and being realistic.  I am a very, very passionate BYU football fan.  But at the same time, I am also very, very realistic.  If my realistic instincts, statistical data, and long-term memory make me a bad fan, then so be it.  All I know, this weekend as I watch BYU take on Hawaii, I will have flashbacks of 2001 in my mind.  My sincere hope is that BYU coaches and players will make this football game the priority of their visit to the islands, and not just a late season get-away.  I don’t know if my little heart could handle another Tropical nightmare.