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THE HOLIDAY BOWL : Past Games Have Been High-Scoring and Close

A synopsis of the first nine Holiday Bowl games:

1978

Navy 23, Brigham Young 16--Navy rallied from a 16-3 deficit and scored 13 fourth-quarter points to beat favored BYU. The game’s key play was a 65-yard fourth-quarter scoring pass from Bob Leszczynski to Phil McConkey with a little more than 11 minutes to go. McConkey, the game’s most valuable player, made a leaping catch to put the Midshipmen ahead for good, 20-16. “That long pass play was the game,” BYU Coach LaVell Edwards said. “That completely turned the momentum.” BYU’s Jim McMahon, who split time at quarterback with Marc Wilson, completed 9 of 18 passes for 133 yards but had 3 passes intercepted. McConkey caught 4 passes for 88 yards and rushed twice for 42 yards.

1979

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Indiana 38, Brigham Young 37--Ninth-ranked BYU’s chance for an undefeated season sailed wide as Brent Johnson missed a 27-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining. Johnson had made field goals of 46, 29 and 28 yards. The teams combined for 874 yards of offense, 520 by BYU. The Western Athletic champion Cougars took a 37-31 fourth-quarter lead on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Marc Wilson to Eric Lane. Indiana scored the eventual winning points when cornerback Tim Wilbur picked up a punt that had been touched by a teammate and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown. Kevin Kellogg’s extra point provided the winning margin. BYU’s final chance came after a 69-yard, 8-play drive to Indiana’s 10. “I’ve never been involved in a better football game in my life,” Indiana Coach Lee Corso said.

1980

Brigham Young 46, Southern Methodist 45--Clay Brown caught a 41-yard “Hail Mary” touchdown pass from Jim McMahon with no time left, and Kurt Gunther kicked the extra point as BYU completed a 21-point rally. SMU running back Craig James ran 42 yards for a touchdown that gave SMU a 45-25 lead with 3:57 left. But McMahon began the comeback, passing 15 yards to Matt Braga for a touchdown that made it 45-31. After BYU recovered an on-sides kick, McMahon passed to Bill Davis to the SMU 1-yard line. Scott Phillips ran in on the next play, and McMahon passed to him for the two-point conversion to cut the SMU advantage to 45-39 with 1:58 remaining. The BYU defense held, and Cougar cornerback Bill Schoepflin blocked a punt by SMU’s Eric Kaife, recovering at the SMU 41 with 18 seconds remaining. After two incompletions, three seconds remained. McMahon, who set 27 NCAA passing records during the regular season, lofted his last pass into the end zone. Despite three SMU defenders, Brown caught the ball. “It was a Hail Mary,” Brown said. “That’s all right, Jim and I are both Catholics.” McMahon completed 32 of 49 passes for 446 yards and 4 touchdowns. SMU’s Pony Express backfield had 225 yards in 23 carries, and touchdown runs of 45 and 42 yards by Craig James, and 110 yards in 23 carries with touchdown runs of 1 and 15 yards by Eric Dickerson.

1981

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Brigham Young 38, Washington State 36--Brigham Young took a 31-7 lead and held off Washington State, which had consecutive third-quarter scoring drives of 69, 50 and 39 yards to make the game close, 31-28. BYU countered with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jim McMahon to Scott Pettis on the first play of the fourth quarter. WSU scored its final touchdown with 59 seconds remaining on a Mike Martin 1-yard run and a Ricky Turner run for the two-point conversion. BYU recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock. McMahon, the offensive most valuable player, completed 27 of 43 passes for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was Washington State’s first bowl appearance in 51 years.

1982

Ohio State 47, Brigham Young 17--Tim Spencer, the offensive most valuable player, gained 167 yards in 21 carries and scored twice in little more than three quarters to lead the Big Ten runner-up. Spencer scored on runs of 61 and 18 yards, and Ohio State rushed 66 times for 329 yards. Steve Young passed for 347 yards for BYU.

1983

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Brigham Young 21, Missouri 17--Trailing, 17-14, with 23 seconds to play, BYU quarterback Steve Young became a receiver in a desperate bid for a victory. Young, who completed 24 of 36 passes for 314 yards, handed to Eddie Stinnett, who swept right, stopped and passed across his body to Young, who was running in the flat on the left side. Stinnett’s pass barely eluded the right hand of Missouri defensive end Bobby Bell and landed in Young’s hands. It was a 14-yard touchdown pass to end a 93-yard drive that had begun with 3:57 left. “I was shocked when I heard the call,” Stinnett said. “I just hoped I could get the ball to Steve.” Said Young: “We ran the play last week in practice, and I dropped the ball.”

1984

Brigham Young 24, Michigan 17--BYU entered the game as the nation’s top-ranked team. It had a 12-0 record and needed a victory for the national championship. BYU quarterback Robbie Bosco, who hobbled for most of the game on a severely injured ankle, passed 13 yards to Kelly Smith with 1:23 left for a touchdown that broke a 17-17 tie. Bosco, the game’s offensive most valuable player, completed 30 passes for 343 yards. The BYU defense held Michigan (6-6) to a Holiday Bowl low of 202 offensive yards and 2.4 yards per carry in 49 carries. BYU won despite six turnovers. “I couldn’t be prouder of any team or any season,” BYU Coach LaVell Edwards said.

1985

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Arkansas 18, Arizona State 17--Freshman Kendall Trainor kicked a 37-yard field goal with 21 seconds remaining as Arkansas came from behind twice in the fourth quarter. Arizona State led, 14-7, in the fourth quarter, but Bobby Joe Edmonds ran 17 yards for an Arkansas touchdown and quarterback Mark Calcagni ran up the middle for the two-point conversion and a 15-14 lead. Arizona State came right back as quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst drove the Sun Devils to the Arkansas 1 before they settled for a Kent Bostrom field goal with 5:23 remaining. It was Bostrom’s third field goal and it gave Arizona State a 17-15 lead. Arkansas rallied, with Calcagni driving the Razorbacks to the Sun Devil 19 with 21 seconds left to set up Trainor’s game-winning kick. Arizona State had one last chance, but Bostrom was short on a 59-yard field goal attempt with 3 seconds left.

1986

Iowa 39, San Diego State 38--Rob Houghtlin kicked a 41-yard field goal with no time left for Iowa. The favored Hawkeyes trailed, 21-13, at halftime and were still behind, 35-21, with eight minutes remaining. Iowa quarterback Mark Vlasic threw touchdown passes of 29 yards to Marv Cook and 3 yards to Mike Flagg, and Chuck Hartlieb passed to Flagg for a two-point conversion to give Iowa a 36-35 lead with 4:26 remaining. SDSU quarterback Todd Santos passed 45 yards to Alfred Jackson to set up a 21-yard Kevin Rahill field goal with 47 seconds left and give the Aztecs a 38-36 lead. But Kevin Harmon returned the kickoff to the Aztec 37, and three plays moved the ball to the 24 with four seconds left. The snap was high and Hartlieb nearly had to come off the ground to catch the ball. Jackson, flying in from the right side, nearly blocked the kick. One announcer mistakenly said, “The kick is blocked.” Santos completed 21 of 33 passes for 298 yards and 3 touchdowns. Vlasic completed 15 of 28 for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns.


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