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Coaches Sing Holiday Tune: Foe’s Praises

TIMES STAFF WRITER

LaVell Edwards and R.C. Slocum went head-to-head Wednesday at the contest before the game: building up one’s opponent.

Call it Holiday schmear.

Said Slocum, the Texas A&M; coach whose team makes its first Holiday Bowl appearance at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium: “BYU has always had a much better defense than they’ve gotten credit for. . . . I haven’t noticed any weaknesses.”

Said Edwards, whose 13th-ranked Brigham Young Cougars earned him his ninth trip to the Holiday Bowl: “Talent-wise, (the Aggies) are excellent. They were within a few points of being (Southwest) conference champion. In fact, they could easily be ranked fourth or fifth in the nation. I’m impressed with their speed and quickness, especially on defense.”

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So instead of dwelling on the lackluster--that the Dec. 29 game features an unranked team against another that lost its last game, 59-28, to Hawaii--the coaches spent Wednesday polishing the match-up.

Will Texas A&M; (8-3-1) be able to keep up with BYU (10-2) and Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer if the game is like most Holiday Bowls, high scoring?

“I don’t think we can win if it’s that type of game,” Slocum said. “They run up and down the field pretty fast. I don’t think we can run that fast. I’m more of a defensive-minded coach. I think it would be exciting if we saw a 14-13 game.”

Beside, Slocum said, he doesn’t put much stock in BYU’s loss to Hawaii two weeks ago.

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“Football’s a game-to-game thing,” he said. “I’ll put more stock in the Miami game (which BYU won, 28-21).”

Is he happy to be in sunny San Diego for the Holiday Bowl?

“At the beginning of the year, we said this would have been our first choice after the Cotton Bowl,” Slocum said.

Edwards, to whom Holiday Bowl briefings have become old hat, used a little humor in his act. He opened his routine with: “It’s nice to be back; hopefully we’ll bring a defense this year. We left it in Provo last year (when the Cougars allowed Penn State to score 50 points).”

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Edwards even included a bit of Holiday Bowl lore while complimenting A&M; running backs Darren Lewis and Robert Wilson.

“They remind me of (Tim) Spencer and Vaughn (Broadnax) of Ohio State,” said Edwards in referring to BYU’s 47-17 loss to Ohio State in 1982. “I think we slowed them down for about 500 yards. (Lewis and Wilson) are really a load. When you’ve got two running backs who are bigger than our linebackers, you are in trouble.”

Lewis, a 6-foot, 220-pound senior halfback, ran for 1691 yards and 18 touchdowns.

How does Lewis compare with Penn State’s Blair Thomas, who ran for 186 yards and a touchdown in last year’s 50-39 loss to the Nittany Lions? “Darren is more physical than Blair Thomas,” Edwards said. “He’s just a lot more imposing.”

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Wilson, a 6-1, 245-pound junior fullback, blocks for Lewis, but he still ran for 732 yards and five touchdowns.

Edwards also spent a fair amount of time discussing the Hawaii loss.

“The Hawaii game was the most bitter disappointment I’ve had here since the Indiana game here in 1979 (a 38-37 loss),” he said. “That game put a damper on almost everything we did this season. I don’t what happened. We had prepared well. But looking back, I’m sure the Heisman had something to do with it. It’s possible all the air was let out then.”

Slocum was asked, for probably the 100th time, to defend his decision to go for two points in his team’s 28-27 loss to Texas.

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“I felt like someone needed to win the game,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I had a choice. Since then, I’ve had great support from our people on the decision.”

Holiday Bowl Notes

Neither team has practiced since its final game. BYU played 11 days ago, and A&M; hasn’t played in almost three weeks. Both squads will begin practice today. . . . BYU and Texas A&M; will arrive in San Diego on Christmas night. A&M; will practice at Mesa College from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Aggies are the first team in the history of the Holiday Bowl to practice at night. BYU will practice at San Diego State from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. . . . BYU has sold 14,000 tickets. A&M; has sold 6,000 . . . The game, which begins at 4:30 p.m., is sold out.


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