Monday, December 9, 1996

No. 5 BYUnot invited
to alliance bowl party

By Paul Arnett

LAS VEGAS - Brigham Young won Saturday's battle with the University of Wyoming, but lost yesterday's war with the Fiesta Bowl.

Despite a 13-1 record and a No. 5-ranking, the Cougars were by-passed not once, but twice as bowl alliance officials elected to take Penn State and Texas.

Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson said after the Cougars rallied to beat Wyoming, 28-25 in overtime, that he felt confident the Fiesta Bowl wouldn't pass BYU by.

But those close to the situation said the Cougars never had a chance, especially after Texas stunned Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game.

''Obviously, we're disappointed,'' Benson said yesterday. ''We're pleased BYU will have the opportunity to play Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl, but we honestly felt BYU deserved one of the at-large bids in the alliance.''

BYU head coach LaVell Edwards also expressed some disappointment. The Cougars are ranked No. 5 with a 13-1 record. They did everything asked of them, except beat the University of Washington - which will play Colorado in the Holiday Bowl - in the Huskies' back yard.

''We've said all along that it's the bowl alliance's party and they can pretty much decide who they want in the game,'' Edwards said. ''I thought our kids had an outstanding season and deserved some consideration to play in a major bowl game.''

Of course, the Cotton Bowl isn't hay. The Cougars will receive a little more than $2 million, but that's a far cry from the $8.43 million being offered by the Fiesta Bowl, money the financially strapped WAC could have used.

Wyoming kind of got lost in the shuffle. The Cowboys finished 10-2, but won't take part in the postseason parade. That's partly because the Copper Bowl elected to take Utah. The 8-3 Utes will face the 7-5 Badgers of Wisconsin.

Even if Wyoming had won, there was talk among Holiday Bowl officials that they would have gone with San Diego State to play Pac-10 No. 2 Washington.


If it weren't for the heads-up play of Mark Atuaia and Kaipo McGuire, two BYU players from Hawaii, it's unlikely the Cougars would have rallied to beat Wyoming.

Down 25-22 with 1:56 left in regulation, the Cougars embarked on the most important drive of the game. Along the way, Atuaia, McGuire and K.O. Kealaluhi made plays that kept alive BYU's chances of winning the game.

First, Kealaluhi pulled down a 13-yard pass to give the Cougars a first down at Wyoming's 41. Three plays later, Atuaia caught a pass in the flat and raced 17 yards for a first down at the 12 with only 40 seconds remaining.

Atuaia then caught two more passes of 5 and 4 yards to give BYU a third and goal from the 3. On the last play, Atuaia fell at the feet of McGuire, who frantically signaled for a timeout with one second left to set up the tying field goal.

''We thought Mark had dropped the ball and didn't know the clock was still running,'' BYU offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. ''Fortunately, Kaipo had his head in the game because the clock would have probably just run out.''

McGuire not only knew that Atuaia had caught the pass, he also quickly realized that the side judge wasn't going to signal a timeout because Atuaia was still inbounds.

''I started shouting for a timeout,'' McGuire said. ''The ref was only a few feet away from me, but the roar of the crowd was so loud, I didn't know if he could hear me.

''He finally glanced over and gave me the timeout with about one second left.''

Atuaia, who played sparingly, was put into the game on the final drive because of his ability to catch.

''I was kind of the safety-valve if everybody else was covered,'' Atuaia said. ''Steve knew he could count on me in the clutch. I looked everyone of those passes into my hands before turning up field to run.

''If I could have kept my feet, I could have scored on that last play. I'm just glad Kaipo was there to call time. To be honest with you, I thought I made a first down on the play, which should have automatically stopped the clock.''


The victory over Wyoming assured BYU of its 19th league title overall and 13th outright.

Wyoming receiver Marcus Harris ended his career with 118 receptions for 4,518 yards and 38 touchdowns. He had six catches for 118 yards in Saturday's loss to the Cougars.

Sarkisian was named the game's most valuable player. During his two years at BYU, the talented quarterback passed for 7,464 yards, good for 15th in the WAC record books.

Aloha Bowl happy with its
Navy-California matchup

By Paul Arnett

Aloha Bowl officials crisscrossed America the past few days trying to find a team to play California in their annual Christmas Day game.

If a Big 12 team wasn't available, they had hoped to land the Army-Navy loser to create a true East-West matchup. That vision was realized after Army held on to beat its arch rival and the University of Texas stunned Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game.

The Aloha Bowl was obligated to take the No. 5 team from the Big 12, but after the Longhorns upset the Cornhuskers on Saturday, everything changed. Instead of going to the Sugar Bowl, Nebraska was sent to the Orange Bowl to play Virginia Tech.

The Fiesta Bowl opted to take Penn State and Texas, which would have gone to the Alamo Bowl had the Longhorns lost. Kansas State is headed to the Cotton Bowl to play Brigham Young University and Colorado will face Washington in the Holiday Bowl, forcing the Alamo Bowl to take Texas Tech.

''Those were the only five teams bowl eligible in the Big 12,'' Aloha Bowl executive Lenny Klompus said last night. ''If Texas hadn't beaten Nebraska, we would have had Texas Tech in our game.

''That would have been fine for us, but the Alamo Bowl is really excited because they can sell that game. We're also very pleased to have Navy and California because these are two respected universities academically, who play exciting football.''

The Bears finished 6-5, but would have had a better season had they not lost so many players to injuries. They figure to be a lot healthier by Christmas.

Navy finished 8-3, but had a chance to win in two of the Midshipmen's losses to Army and Boston College. The only blowout was against Notre Dame when the teams traveled to Ireland earlier this year.

It also marks the return of former University of Hawaii coaches Paul Johnson and Kenny Niumatalolo, and quarterback Ivin Jasper. Johnson is the offensive coordinator, while Niumatalolo handles running backs. Jasper is a graduate assistant.

Johnson will be leaving for Georgia Southern to be head coach after the postseason game. He will be joined by former UH assistant Mike Sewak later this month, who has been at Ohio University the past few years. Niumatalolo and Jasper will remain at Navy.

''Coach Johnson has been asking us about playing here for quite some time,'' Klompus said. ''A lot of things had to happen for this game to fall into place, but we're happy with this matchup. We've already had a lot of calls for tickets. I'm hoping for a sellout.''

Tickets are currently on sale. For more information, call the Aloha Bowl ticket office at 947-4141.

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