BYU football: Baseball venue creates unique challenges in bowl game
San Francisco • Substitutes have to run farther and quarterbacks need better vision than usual in the Fight Hunger Bowl, as BYU and Washington discovered Friday.
Among the quirks of staging a football game in baseball stadium such as the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park is that both teams occupy the same sideline. There's a neutral area between the 45-yard lines, so when the ball was inside the 10 at one end of the field or the other, players had to run nearly 50 yards from the sideline to the huddle.
Organizers have staged San Francisco's bowl game under various names in this venue since 2002, with few complaints about the field's configuration. The Fight Hunger Bowl will move to Levi's Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, in 2014 with teams from the Pac-12 and the Big Ten.
Utah's impressive showing in 2005 marked the last time the bowl was affiliated with the Mountain West, before switching to the Pac-12. Beginning with UCLA's victory over Florida State in '06, the Pac-12 had gone 5-1, prior to Washington's appearance Friday. The conference claimed wins by Oregon State over Maryland, California over Miami, USC over Boston College and Arizona State over Navy, while UCLA lost to Illinois in 2012.
The league was unable to supply an eligible team in the 2010 season (before the expansion to 12 schools), when Nevada beat Boston College.
Utah quarterback Brett Ratliff and receiver Travis LaTendresse, who caught 16 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns, remain prominent in the bowl record book.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall entered Friday's game with a 6-2 bowl record, in position to tie LaVell Edwards' school record for bowl wins. Edwards went 7-15-1 in the postseason, although he generally faced tougher competition. Of his 15 losses, 11 came against teams currently playing in BCS-affiliated leagues.
In the coaching transition from Steve Sarkisian to Chris Petersen, Washington did not have a full staff available Friday. Quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo was in charge for the bowl game, and the Huskies gave more prominent game-day roles to four graduate assistants.
Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau, a former Utah State assistant, took over the play-calling duties formerly performed by Sarkisian. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox remained in place for the bowl game; he's soon expected to join Sarkisian at USC.
Defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi whose father, John, was among BYU's first Polynesian players is reportedly the subject of an NCAA investigation into his recruiting practices at Washington, leaving his future in question.