1984 Holiday Bowl

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1984 Holiday Bowl
1 2 3 4 Total
Michigan 0 7 7 3 17
BYU 0 10 0 14 24
Date December 21, 1984
Season 1984
Stadium Jack Murphy Stadium
Location San Diego
Attendance 61,243[1]
Payout US$502,635 per team[1]
United States TV coverage
Network Mizlou/ESPN
Announcers Howard David and Paul Maguire
Holiday Bowl
 < 1983  1985

The 1984 Holiday Bowl was one of the games that determined the national championship in college football for the 1984 season. Played on December 21, 1984, at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, it pitted the BYU Cougars against the Michigan Wolverines; BYU won the game, 24-17. The attendance of 61,248 was a record for Jack Murphy Stadium at that time.

National championship[edit]

At the conclusion of the 1984 college football season, BYU was the only undefeated team in Division I-A. As such, BYU was the leading candidate to win the national championship if it were to win its bowl game. However, BYU, as nine-time defending champion of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), was obligated to play in the Holiday Bowl. The Holiday Bowl was only in its fifth season, and the WAC was only considered a second-tier conference at the time. As such, the Holiday Bowl would not automatically draw a high-caliber opponent for the WAC champion. Many poll voters were reluctant to crown BYU as national champion. They felt that BYU had not played a legitimate schedule (the Cougars only played one ranked team—Pittsburgh—all season, and no one in the WAC was even close to being their equal), and also felt the Cougars' statistics were inflated by the heavily pass-oriented brand of football played in the WAC.

Rumors spread that BYU would break its contract to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Doug Flutie's Boston College team and six others turned down the Holiday Bowl's $500,000 payout. It chose the 6-5 Michigan Wolverines, which had been ranked #3 early in the season before quarterback Jim Harbaugh broke his arm. Michigan's Bo Schembechler was among those skeptical of BYU, stating that "There's no way this team should be a better passing team than Illinois, Miami, Iowa, or Purdue".[2] The Wolverines managed to give BYU a tough game, but BYU won the game by a score of 24-17 and would later be awarded the consensus national championship after all of the other bowl games had been completed.

Game summary[edit]

First quarter[edit]

BYU's first drive ended when Robbie Bosco threw an interception. On the second drive, Bosco was carried off the field after a roughing-the-passer penalty led to a knee ligament strain. He was replaced by Blaine Fowler, who came in with the game still scoreless. Fowler's first pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage. On his second play, Fowler threw a short pass for a first down on 3rd and 2. The Cougars eventually kicked.

Second quarter[edit]

Robbie Bosco returned on BYU's next possession. Bosco led the Cougars to their first touchdown of the game, a touchdown run by Kelly Smith with 8:33 remaining in the second quarter. Besides throwing several passes, Bosco also made a gutsy scramble for a first down.

Michigan's next possession ended in an attempted punt. The BYU defenders, however, penetrated too quickly and the punter had no time to punt. He was promptly tackled out of bounds at the 5-yard line. On the ensuing possession, though, the Cougars failed to take advantage as Bosco fumbled the ball into the endzone on 3rd and goal from the 3. Michigan recovered for a touchback.

The Wolverines responded by driving down the field for a touchdown. They were aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct call against BYU, and later a running into the kicker penalty after Michigan had kicked a field goal. Rick Rogers scored for Michigan on a 5-yard run to tie the game at 7-7. BYU took the ball deep in their own territory, ran a 2-minute drill, and kicked a field goal with 4 seconds left in the half to take a 10-7 lead into halftime.

Third quarter[edit]

On BYU's opening possession of the second half, Bosco's pass went off the fingertips of Lakei Heimuli, and Michigan's Mike Mallory intercepted it. After a Michigan punt, BYU committed another turnover when Bosco was stripped by Jim Scarcelli. Michigan recovered the fumble.

With 3:20 to play in the third, a field goal attempt by Lee Johnson was blocked. After the block, Michigan drove down and scored on a touchdown pass from Chris Zurbrugg to Bob Perryman, giving them a 14-10 lead. The ensuing kickoff was bobbled by Vai Sikahema who was then tackled on the 5-yard line. BYU then fumbled again a few plays later and Michigan recovered with 6 seconds remaining in the third quarter. This was BYU's fifth turnover of the game.

Fourth quarter[edit]

BYU's Defense held, forcing Michigan to settle for a field goal despite advancing the ball to the 10-yard line. This gave the Wolverines a 17-10 lead and thus setting up another BYU epic Holiday Bowl comeback as in the 1980 and 1983 game.

BYU drove the length of the field and scored with 10:51 remaining on a 7-yard Bosco to Glenn Kozlowski touchdown pass to tie the game 17-17. Blaine Fowler recounts that, following that touchdown play, Kozlowski jokingly accused Bosco of trying to throw the ball away because the pass was extremely high and too strong, but Kozlowski made a sensational circus catch.[3]

After a Michigan punt, BYU took possession but another Bosco pass was intercepted after it went off the hand of Glenn Kozlowski and into the hands of Jim Scarcelli. BYU then forced yet another Michigan punt. Finally, BYU drove the length of the field and scored on a pass from an injured Bosco to Kelly Smith with 1:23 remaining. Marv Allen, who also played in the very first Holiday Bowl as a redshirt freshman in 1978, sealed the victory with an interception.


Schembechler complained after the game that BYU "should be outlawed" because it was "the worst holding team in the United States of America" (BYU had no holding penalties). Despite Michigan's record,[2] Brigham Young's two-year spanning win-streak, their position as the lone undefeated team in the nation that year, and their ability to defeat a traditional powerhouse in a bowl game were enough to sway the voters. The Cougars remained at the top of both the AP and UPI/Coaches' polls, though they had to wait nearly a week for the final results. The reason for the wait was because the 1984 Holiday Bowl marked the only time in college football history that the eventual national champion played its bowl game in December.

Controversy continued after the bowl season among supporters of the Washington Huskies who believed that they had been deprived of a national championship. As a result, BYU would be pitted against a formidable opponent in the Kickoff Classic to open the 1985 season. They would face the Boston College Eagles, who had finished the previous season ranked 4th and 5th in the UPI and AP polls, respectively. Brigham Young won this matchup with the Eagles, who had lost their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Doug Flutie and finished with a 5-8 record that season, by a score of 28-14. Two weeks later they would also face the Washington Huskies, who had finished the previous season ranked immediately behind Brigham Young at #2 in both major polls, and had been one of the more vocal detractors of the previous year's official outcome. Brigham Young would also go on to win that match-up by a lopsided score of 31-3. The Brigham Young Cougars' 25-game winning streak, which had begun on September 17, 1983, came to an end against UCLA on September 7, 1985, when they lost 27-24 to the Bruins.


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