About 7,800 above Boise, Idaho, the charter 727 airliner carrying the Brigham Young football team from Provo, Utah, to Seattle for a game against Washington nose-dived 500 feet to avoid a collision with an Air Force A-10 Warthog. The Cougars' plane passed within 700 feet of the Air Force jet.
The 727 took off without a full tank to compensate for the excess weight in the form of football equipment and players it was carrying. It needed to land in Boise to refuel. "I know how close cars can be," said BYU defensive end Daren Yancey, "but this is the closest I've ever seen two airplanes." The FAA is investigating the incident.
Air travel always seems to exact a price, monetary or otherwise, on WAC teams. Hawaii, which must fly commercially because charter flights to die mainland would be prohibitively expensive (at least $300,000 each), was delayed by mechanical problems for four hours last Friday in San Francisco while en route to play Utah. The Rainbows arrived in Salt Lake City at 3 a.m. Eleven hours later they were headed to a 30-21 loss to the Utes, Hawaii's 21st straight conference road defeat.
Two weeks ago Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick blasted his own school for the Rams' nofrills flight to a game at Nevada. The trip from Fort Collins to Reno, which took eight hours, included a refueling stop and just one sandwich per player for sustenance. "If you want to write anything," Lubick later told reporters, "you can write about the trip and how Mickey Mouse that was." At least Colorado State beat Nevada, 26-14. BYU made as many touchdowns between Provo and Seattle as it did against the Huskies in a 20-10 loss.
So far this season WAC teams are 4-14 in nonconference games to which they have flown. That's a major reason only one conference school is ranked in the Top 25. Which school would that be? Air Force.
New Mexico State Rising?
During the final minute of New Mexico State's 28-27 comeback win over New Mexico last Saturday, the Aggies' first victory of die season, coach Tony Samuel felt as if he were back at Nebraska. Samuel, who spent 18 years in Lincoln as a player and assistant coach before taking over the dormant New Mexico State program last season, hired eight assistants who had Husker ties, installed the Nebraska smashmouth offense and tried to bring some bravado to his new team.
The Aggies were 2-11 under Samuel entering Saturday's game and had dropped 25 of their last 29 to the Lobos. But Samuel kept New Mexico State's confidence up, even after Dion Martin scored on an 88-yard kickoff return to give New Mexico a 27-21 lead with 57 seconds remaining. "When that guy brought that kickoff back, it was like someone had crushed a home run," said Samuel on Sunday. "Still, not for one second did I think the game was over. We only had a minute, but with three timeouts I knew we could do it."
Five plays later two former walk-ons, quarterback Ty Houghtaling and wideout Ryan Shaw, hooked up on a 50-yard touchdown pass to tie the score. Aware that the Lobos had been penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration after Martin's touchdown and had missed a 35-yard PAT, Samuel sprinted up and down the sideline making sure New Mexico State didn't draw a flag for the same reason. After Andy Kohl made the extra point, Samuel didn't mind that Aggies fans stormed the field and ripped down the goalposts.
"I felt like I did at Nebraska when we beat Miami to win the national championship in 1994," he said. "This was a huge win for our program and something we can build on. At Nebraska we never thought we were going to lose, and that's the type of confidence I'm trying to establish here."