'McMahon at the Helm' poem details greatest comeback in BYU history

(Deseret News Archive)

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PROVO — Ever since sports were played with inflated pig bladders, fans have been collecting “remember when” moments. They cherish them and love them. They speak of them often and manage to retell them without embellishment.

I have more of these moments than IQ points — that’s both disturbing and frighteningly non-hyperbolic. The greatest of these moments was “Beck to Harline.” I was less than 10 yards away when Rice-Eccles Stadium fell silent.

Greg De Haan’s “remember when” moment trumps even the great “Beck to Harline” because in 1980, Jim McMahon shined at the Holiday Bowl, although everyone remembers it as the “Miracle Bowl.”

It was the greatest comeback in BYU history. With less than three minutes remaining in the game and trailing 45-25 to Southern Methodist University — behind the “Pony Express” of Eric Dickerson and Craig James — Jim McMahon solidified his legend by completing a 41-yard Hail Mary to Clay Brown as time expired. The extra point by Kurt Gunther gave BYU the 46-45 comeback win.

Greg De Haan was watching that game with his family and despite the huge deficit, “I remember never giving up hope. Nobody was sitting down watching it, we were all standing huddled around that television.”

Trusting in the coaching genius of LaVell Edwards and on the golden arm of McMahon, De Haan and family felt that "they can still do it, they can still pull this out."

After the victory, De Haan decided to record this classic memory by writing a poem, “McMahon at the Helm.”

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Cougar club that day

The score stood 45 to 25 with just three minutes left to play

So when the left end missed his pass and the right end did the same

A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game

A rejected bunch got up to go, leaving there the rest

With a hope that springs eternal within the human breast

For they thought if only McMahon could get his pass and arm goin’

Then maybe the Cougar club could make a better showin’

Then from this stricken multitude went up a joyous yell

It was music heard in Heaven and it rattled the Gates of Hell

It ricocheted off the grandstand and rebounded on the field

For Braga caught the TD pass and the Y refused to yield

The onside kick by Gunther seemed a very risky call

But when they pried the Mustangs off the Cougars had the ball

Then Davis caught a mighty heave and scrambled to the one-yard line

And Phillips bolted in and with the extra point it was 45 to 39

Once more they tried the onside kick but SMU got the ball

But after being smeared three times a punt was in the call

Schoepflin rushed and blocked the punt with 13 seconds on the board

And clear across the nation the screams and shouts were heard

On the sidelines Coach Edwards had pulled out all his hair

And it seemed with three seconds left they didn’t have a prayer

And now McMahon gets the ball and is forced to run way back

And the mighty warriors of SMU figured they had an easy sack

But McMahon wheels and desperately lets go a mighty launch into the air

While 60-yards downfield Brown is surrounded like a fox in a lion’s lair

Oh, somewhere in this troubled land, the interest rates going higher

The Dow Jones has dropped way down and the salesman has no buyer

The government’s got it by the neck, they seem to have us all

But there is no sorrow in Utah, for Clay Brown has caught the ball

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