A controversial call on a fumble within inches of the Hawaii goal line snuffed what would have been an improbable comeback for Oregon State and salvaged Hawaii's invitation to its first-ever bowl game.
"I just fumbled the ball," Oregon State fullback Pat Chaffey said. "I thought I was across the goal line, but they ruled it a fumble."
Hawaii free safety Walter Briggs jumped on the free ball for the recovery on the one-yard line with 4:39 left as No. 24 Hawaii held on Saturday night for a 23-21 victory. The Rainbows (9-2) face No. 25 Michigan State in the Aloha Bowl on Christmas Day.
"I was just there to try to make a tackle," Briggs said. "The ball just appeared. I think it hit off his knee."
Oregon State coach Dave Kragthorpe said he wouldn't comment on the call until he reviewed films of the game.
"All I know is that we had a chance to win the game with the ball on the one-yard line with four cracks to get it in," Kragthorpe said. "It was the worst possible thing that could have happened to us," Kragthorpe said. "I feel sorry for Pat Chaffey. . . . I think it is unfortunate that he could be made the goat in some people's eyes."
Jason Elam, who has made 20 consecutive field goals, converted on kicks of 30, 44 and 37 yards. His 44-yard field goal gave Hawaii a 20-7 lead with 9:36 to play in the third quarter and the 37-yarder increased the lead to 23-7 with 14:55 left.