Saturday, November 08, 2014

when the Bows bashed BYU

It seems hard to believe, as I sit and watch the great upsets and fantastic finishes of this year’s college football season, that it’s been 25 years since one of the most magical nights in University of Hawaii football lore. It was Oct. 28, 1989, when the ‘Bows bashed BYU, 56-14.

“This is better than Statehood!” hollered longtime UH broadcaster Jim Leahey on the K-5 telecast. Coach Bob Wagner called it “the most perfect game, execution-wise, that I’ve ever been involved with.” You can still view the highlights on YouTube.

For long-suffering UH football fans who had watched their beloved team get better each year but always manage to fall short against powerful BYU, it was redemption in every way.

“I remember being a sportscaster in Hawaii in the 1980s and I saw all the misfortunes,” says Russell Shimooka, former sports director at KITV. “Whether it was the left-footed punt by Jim McMahon in ’81, the dropped pass by Walter Murray in ’87 or the one- and two-point losses in between, my heart bled with the Rainbows.”

But that October night in ’89, just three days before Halloween, was different. You could feel it the air, as many fans in a jam-packed Aloha Stadium came in costume. It turned out that mighty BYU, the national champion just a few years before, was the team that would be spooked.

I remember being on the field behind the Hawaii bench and hearing the cacophony of sounds, and the passion, emotion and confetti rain down onto the turf. It was deafening — so loud that then-future sportscaster Robert Kekaula remembers “the place shook so much, I thought it was going to fall down.”

“We had the place filled to capacity,” recalls Garrett Gabriel, the ‘Bows quarterback. “I was just fortunate to have one of my best games against them. I was very proud to be a part of that team.”

“It meant so much for the state of Hawaii,” Gabriel says. “It’s a night that people remember and treasure as a part of our UH football history.”

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