PROVO, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - The last time the BYU football team made a trip to Hawaii, the Cougars suffered one of their worst losses ever. In 2001, BYU came into Aloha Stadium with a perfect 12-0 record, only to lose to the Warriors, 72-45. That was, and still is, the most points a BYU team has ever given up.
The Cougars make a return trip to the islands Saturday in their regular season finale.
"I didn't follow BYU football then as closely as I do now," said senior running back Bryan Kariya with a smile. "That sounds familiar, but hopefully that won't happen again this time."
There is still a question of who will start at quarterback for the Cougars. Riley Nelson injured his lungs in the win over Idaho on November 12th and missed the last game against New Mexico State. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said he will prepare both Nelson and Jake Heaps as if they are starting.
"He's been cleared to fly, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's been cleared to play yet," said Mendenhall about Nelson. "So, we're going to prepare both quarterbacks all the way through the week. If Riley were cleared to play, I would start Riley."
"Whether it's Riley or whether it's Jake, either way both guys are great athletes," said Kariya. "Both guys are great quarterbacks and have shown they're able to lead the team."
BYU and Hawaii haven't played each other since 2002. This game used to be a big rivalry, and with the schools signing a multi-year agreement to re-kindle the series, this could become a big game once again, especially with nine current BYU players hailing from Hawaii.
"When we go back [to Hawaii], it's kind of a rivalry," said BYU defensive lineman and Hawaii native Simote Vea. "It's between us, being Hawaiian decided to leave, versus the Hawaiians that stayed there. That's why I think it's a big game."
"There are a lot of LDS people on the island and with ties to BYU," added Mendenhall. "At one point, the stadium used to be full, maybe not for any other game in the season other than the BYU game."
Now that BYU and Utah will no longer play in November, Mendenhall hopes the BYU-Hawaii rivalry can develop into something special.
"I would love to have Utah still as the last game of the season," he said. "If not, I would love to have Hawaii as the last game of the season. I would love to have the last game of the season to have something of special significance."
The Cougars (8-3) and Warriors (6-6) kick off at 5:30 p.m. mountain time Saturday.