SAN DIEGO- Just when it looked for all the world BYU had done a
number on the U.S. Navy to win its first bowl in history: just when the
Cougars were on their way to a rout, the tide, if you'll excuse the
expression, turned. The Navy's ship came in.
Sparked by the brilliance of split end Phil McConkey, the Naval
Academy swept to 20 second-half points for a 23-16 win over BYU Friday
in the world premiere of the Holiday Bowl — played at San Diego Stadium
in front of 52,500 fans, most of whom didn't even think about leaving
early to avoid traffic jams out on Stadium Way. Nope, the Navy kept them
in their seats. The crowd was prejudiced in the academy's direction
anyway, what with San Diego being a seaport and all-around Navy hangout,
and when the Midshipmen woke up in the second half it made for the start
of a pretty good evening for thousands of sea-men taking furlough for
Navy was definitely on the ropes midway into the third quarter when
BYU scored on a Jim McMahon run to take a 16-3 lead. That's when
McConkey, a 5-10, 164-pound senior, went to work. He gained 16 yards on
a reverse to set up a late third-quarter touchdown by Kevin Tolbert,
making the score 16-10; and then gained 26 yards on an identical play
moments later to set Bob Tata up for a 28-yard field goal that narrowed
the gap to 13-16.
Then came the game's big play. The year's big play. The biggest play
for Navy since Staubach retired. McConkey hauled in a 35-yard pass from
QB Bob Leszczynski with a leaping catch over BYU's best pass defender,
Bill Schoepflin, and rambled 30 yards into the endzone for enough points
to give Navy the inaugural Holiday title and give himself the Best
Offensive Player trophy (video). The Navy's advantage of 20-16 was extended
moments later to 23-16 on Tat's third field goal of the game.
Those final Navy points came with seven minutes still to play, but
BYU couldn't swim back. Not against the tide. The sailors were sailing.
After McConkey's TD the Cougars amassed a grand total of 16 yards — in
the game's final 12 crucial minutes. The Y. tried both all-Star
quarterbacks, Marc Wilson and Jim McMahon, to no avail. They were sacked
four times in the late-going, after being touched only once each through
The Y. had once had the momentum, like for nearly three full quarters.
Wilson led a first quarter march that meant three points from Brent
Johnson (33-yard field goal) and was replaced in the second quarter by
McMahon, who did even better, spearheading a couple of brilliant-type
drives en route to the short-lived, and loved, 16-3 advantage. McMahon
hit Mike Chronister on a 10-yard pass for BYU's first TD and rushed
himself for the second six-pointer.
These highlights, coupled with a defense playing inspired, seemed
altogether plenty against a Navy team not brimming with explosiveness. A
BYU defensive stand on the goal line to close the fist half, denying
Navy a touchdown after three cracks from the five-yard line, seemed to
verify the WAC champions had clear title to the Holiday Bowl.
BYU linebacker Tom Enlow was a key part of that goal line stand, and
several other stands as he made 10 unassisted tackles and was named the
game's Best Defensive Player even though his team lost. Amid postgame
congratulations (and condolences) he pointed to two second-half
circumstances he felt did in his Cougars.
"I think," said Tom, "we slacked up after we scored so easy to start
the second half. We thought it was going to be too easy. Then we found
out Navy was in excellent shape, and they were ready to play that fourth
It was BYU's closest effort in history to a bowl win, after three
tries, and was the sourest pill to swallow, after coming that close to
the brass ring and all.
At no time during its 8-3 regular season had Navy won by coming from
behind. Who'd have figured the Middies had brought enough torpedoes to
San Diego to last four full quarters? But just as in the loss to Utah a
month ago, it was unmistakably the last quarter that sunk BYU. There was
little consolation for the Cougars in their coaches' postgame post
mortem. Said Edwards: "We played a good game . . . but only for three
In the game's final statistics, Navy wound up with 352 total yards
compared to BYU's 255. The telling stat occurred in the second half,
when Navy gained 235 of its yards and BYU gained only 94 of its total.
|Bob Leszczynski||Tolbert scores.|
Tolbert in the endzone.
Marc Wilson is sacked.
Navy's first bowl win since 1958.