Back to the island

For this Saturday's game between BYU and Hawaii, the phrase that has commonly been bandied about is "rivalry renewed." The two teams programs have played each other 27 times through the years, but their last showdown was in 2002. Hawaii loves to hate BYU, and the heavy (no pun intended) Polynesian influence on BYU's program adds to the rivalry.

The thought of Aloha Stadium doesn't conjure up pleasant memories for Cougar fans. Although BYU has a winning record in road games against the Hawaii Warriors (11-8, including victories in 11 of the last 15), fans' perceptions have been soured by a few high-profile losses.

There was the 59-28 loss in 1990 the day Ty Detmer won the Heisman Trophy, and the 72-45 loss in 2001 when BYU was 12-0. So, Hawaii hasn't always been paradise for the Cougars.

Hawaii, conversely, has never beaten BYU on the mainland, though only eight of the 27 all-time meetings between the two schools have been in Provo.

Although no one on BYU's roster has played the University of Hawaii before, there are some players that are familiar with the Warriors. One such player is senior defensive lineman Simote Vea.

A Hawaii native, Vea played for the powerhouse Kahuku High School Red Raiders. As such, he's had to opportunity to play in Aloha Stadium before.

"It's different because when I was there we had a sea of red cheering for us, so I'm excited to see how it's going to be this time," said Vea.

He's also been to Aloha Stadium to watch the Warriors play.

"I've been to a few University of Hawaii games, and [it's] pretty crazy. It's not your typical BYU game," said Vea, noting the alcohol and some "crazy people" present at the games.

Vea was even there for Hawaii's big victory over BYU in 2001.

"In 2001, I was wearing a green shirt," he said with a smile. "But I was a freshman in high school and it was a pretty big game."

He did reassure the media that he would be sure not to wear any green during Saturday's game.

While in high school, Vea was not recruited by Hawaii. He said he was hurt his senior year, causing some schools to shy away from recruiting him. In addition, he played running back in high school, and thus didn't fit in with Hawaii's pass-heavy scheme.

Returning home to play Hawaii has Vea pretty excited, and he isn't the only player on BYU's roster with Hawaiian roots. A total of nine different players on BYU's roster are listed as being from Hawaii, and there are other players that likely have some ties to the islands. Coach Mendenhall noted earlier this week that he hopes playing in Hawaii can help recruiting, as it has in the past.

Vea, meanwhile, noted that this game is a big opportunity for all of his teammates from Hawaii. He said he is looking forward to playing in front of family, and though he has some cousins who have graduated from the University of Hawaii, he hopes they will be wearing blue come Saturday.

For some of BYU's islanders, this game is also an opportunity to go up against friends and former high school teammates.

"I have some friends on the Hawaii football team, and they'll be up for this game," said Vea, who noted that this should be one of BYU's tougher games. "They got a lot of things riding on this game … if they win, they go to a bowl game. If they don't, then they're done."

But, he said, there hasn't been any smack talk between them.

"We all went to the same high school and we all cheer for each other, but we all know that when we play, the game's on the line, so we'll all play hard for our teams."

Vea said he might get another year of eligibility, but if not, then playing his home-state team is a good way to go out in his last regular-season game as a Cougar.

As for why Hawaii players and fans get up so much for games against BYU, Vea said that it is due in part to the religion aspect (Hawaii had 68,129 Latter-day Saints in 2009 according to census data), but also because of the Polynesian influence in both programs.

"I think it's because BYU in the past and even now has had a number of Polynesians from the islands, so when we go back it's kind of a rivalry between us being Hawaiian and not there versus the Hawaiians that stayed there."

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