SAN DIEGO--All the Aggies were looking for was a little respect.
Entering the 1990 Sea World Holiday Bowl unranked despite an 8-3-1 record and a one-point loss at No. 4-ranked Texas to close out the regular season, Texas A&M had heard enough about BYU and their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Ty Detmer. The Cougars were entering the game off a big loss at Hawai'i that cost them a shot at the national championship.
An intriguing matchup on paper lived up to expectations very early in the contest as both teams scored on their first possessions. The Aggies who were supposed to run, run, run the ball, did so 11 times on a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. The Cougars were supposed to ride Detmer's arm to victory--five passes on a 7-play, 65-yard march tied the score.
Then, a fierce maroon storm hit Jack Murphy Stadium, enveloping anything and everything wearing blue.
Touchdown, Darren Lewis. Touchdown, Bucky Richardson. Safety. Touchdown, Bucky Richardson. Touchdown, Shane Garrett.
Shelter came only at halftime, as a stunned and shell-shocked BYU squad went to the locker room staring a 30-point deficit in the face. The Aggies would pour it on some more after the break en route to a record-setting 65-14 victory over the Cougars before a sellout crowd of 61,441 in sunny San Diego.
"Without any question, it was our most complete football game of the year," A&M head coach R.C. Slocum said.
It was perhaps one of the most dominating bowl-game performances in college football history. Ten years later, A&M still holds the NCAA bowl game records for points by a winning team (65) and touchdowns (nine). The Aggies racked up 680 yards of total offense, tacked on 218 return yards and managed 28 first downs. BYU, who entered the game averaging 565 yards per game, was held to just 185.
So dominating was A&M's performance that Detmer would be forced from the game in the third quarter with a separated left--and right--shoulder. His streak of 300-yard passing games would come to an end at 25.
"They were coming hard, and we expected them to come hard," Detmer said. "We had some mixups and turned some people loose. You're not going to win if you don't execute.
"They played a great game and really got after us. They beat us bad."
A second half much like the first saw the Cougars score on their first possession when backup quarterback Joe Evans connected on his first pass of the game for a one-yard touchdown.
Bucky responded with a 27-yard scoring scamper late in the third, and Lewis followed with a 3-yard touchdown run of his own on the third play of the fourth quarter. Senior backup quarterback Lance Pavlas tossed touchdown passes of 14 and nine yards, respectively, to close out the scoring.
The Aggies, who entered the game with the nation's fourth-best rushing attack, looked to combat the deadly Detmer by keeping him off the field. To do so, they planned to grind out long, time-consuming drives on the ground.
Following the Cougars' tying touchdown in the first quarter, A&M would thwart a BYU drive on an interception by William Thomas. Lewis, the Southwest Conference's all-time leading rusher, would score four plays later from six yards out. From there, the Aggies would never look back.
Drives of 90 and 75 yards were capped by trick plays, the first of many A&M tossed at the Cougars. Sitting on the BYU 6-yard line midway through the second quarter, the Aggies brought in Pavlas at quarterback, who subsequently handed the ball off to Richardson. Faking a pitch, Bucky followed the blockers into the endzone for a 21-7 lead. After a safety increased the Aggie lead by two, Bucky caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to make the score 30-7.
"We caught them off guard," Lewis said of his halfback pass to Richardson for a touchdown. "He was wide open. I just had to get it to him."
A fourth-down sack of Detmer set up A&M's final touchdown of the first half, as Richardson tossed a six-yard strike to Shane Garrett with 31 seconds to play.
Richardson, an easy choice for Offensive MVP, finished the evening with 344 total yards and four touchdowns. He rushed for 119 yards and two scores, completed 9-of-11 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown, and caught one for 22 yards and a score. Lewis broke the 100-yard barrier, racking up 104 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns.
"Probably, yeah," Richardson said, when asked if it was the best game of his career. "I just go into every game trying to make all the right decisions and right reads. Things just fell right for me tonight. I was able to execute."
Thomas earned Defensive MVP honors, leading the way with six tackles (two for loss), two sacks and the interception. Quentin Coryatt also posted six tackles (three for loss) along with two sacks of his own. Kevin Smith notched four tackles, recovered a fumble and broke up three passes. The swarming Aggie defense had BYU on its heels all night, as the Cougars were held to minus-12 yards rushing. Detmer left the game in the third quarter 11-of-23 passing for 120 yards, a touchdown and an interception. BYU's total of 185 yards of offense was, at the time, the lowest in the game's 13-year history.
"We wanted it that way," Thomas said. "Ever since we got here, we've been disrespected. BYU called us small and not very physical. And we knew people had come to watch Mr. Heisman Trophy winner. We wanted to prove something--that we could play defense."
A&M's final three touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, two through the air. It was a fact that didn't sit well with BYU coach LaVell Edwards, who accused the Aggies of running up the score.
"There's been a lot of talk this week about us not being good enough to play in this football game," Slocum said. "I didn't want there to be any doubts about our being good enough for this game. I hope this (talk about running up the score) doesn't take away from our football team and the great football game they played."