On the 9th of November in the year of our Lord 1996, the day I turned 20, the Brigham Young Cougars, quarterbacked by Steve Sarkisian, who is now the head coach of the Texas Longhorns, led a 49-0 butt-whipping of the Rice Owls of Houston, Texas, right here at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.
Now, I had a decent game. I recall grading out at 94% as the starting right guard that day. The Cougars didn’t dominate me.
But holy crap that altitude affected us! Seriously, Houston’s at like 100 feet above sea level. Provo’s elevation is 4551′. We all lost our breath much easier. I remember feeling not dizzy but quite disorientated after one play as the sun hit my sweat-soaked eyes looking at snow-capped mountains surrounding the stadium. “Where the hell am I?” I wondered for a second.
(And the Cougars were a good team that year. They went 14-1, ended up ranked #5, and capped off their season with a 19-15 Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State.)
Regardless, the loss was disappointing. It was especially so because we Owls were contenders.
We started off 1996 at 1-3. We lost to Ohio State 7-70. Beat Tulane 21-14. Lost to Kansas State 7-34. Lost to Air Force 17-45. Things were looking ugly.
Then we Owls caught on fire.
We won the next 4. We clobbered New Mexico 38-21, rushing for almost 500 yards. We beat SMU 35-17. Beat the hell out of UTEP 48-21. And beat the ever-loving hell out of the #20 Utah Utes at Houston 51-10.
We were 5-3. We were the hottest team in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) . Our wishbone offense had caught fire. We were rushing 400 to 500 yards per game. We possessed the ball close to 40 minutes.
Four yards and a cloud of dust. Our offense wasn’t sexy. But it did work. It physically punished defenses. Defenses knew what was coming and couldn’t stop us. My role in life was to be a bull-dozer. It was to push the line-of-scrimmage back two yards so the full back to gain two more yards – EVERY PLAY. 2 + 2 = 4. 4 x 3 = 12. FIRST DOWN!
If a defense can’t stop a fullback dive, they overcompensate inside. So you attack them outside with double and triple options. When they overcompensate outside you go back inside. Truly, Ken Hatfield’s wishbone offense was a thing of beauty that year (and the next). Those games are sweet memories.
So, this 1996 game with the BYU was a WAC showdown. Demolishing the Utes the week before meant the Cougars had to take us seriously.
And they did. And that’s why the beat the hell out of us.
But we finished up the year strong. We next beat TCU 30-17 at Fort Worth. We finished the season with a 42-14 drubbing of the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. 7-4 was our final record.
We were bowl eligible. But no one wanted the Rice Owls in their bowl. We would bring no fans and therefore no revenues.
But 1996’s 7-4 season was fun. It was my first winning season since elementary school. And the WAC coaches selected me 2nd team All-WAC. It was funny to see me listed at 6’1” amidst other All-WAC offensive lineman at 6’6”. It was funny the next year when I was 1st team All-WAC and even a 3rd team All-American.
A powerful memory occurred here at BYU. That’s why I wanted to stop here. And that 1996 loss served as motivation for us Owls to beat #21 BYU 27-14 under a monsoon rain at Houston on the 11th of October, 1997. That game was fun.
Yup. I will admit the excitement of memories made during football season still swell towards the end of August. Playing (almost) 17 football seasons in Texas does that to you. It’s kinda’ in my blood.
But I don’t really follow football anymore. The NFL is the WWF. College football is a distraction to far better things on Saturdays. I would still watch it, sometimes, if I had television channels. But I don’t want that goddamned stuff in my house.
Then I see men on sidelines wearing masks. This is for conditioning us to accept this ridiculous setting as healthy. Then there is football’s promotion of social and political change promulgated by the evil ones of Big Government, Big Tech and Mass Media.
IT CAN ALL GO STRAIGHT TO HELL.
But enough. I’m too excited to continue north to the Yellowstone country.
Lastly, my zeal for western lands was, to no small degree, evoked by playing at WAC stadiums in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and California. The landscapes aroused my imagination. Dallas and Houston had no mountains. Now I can’t imagine life without them.