In 2010 I wrote a couple of columns for a now defunct American Football site. I thought I’d resurrect a couple of these. This one is focused on College Football.
The College football season got under way over the weekend and my second favourite football team began their final season in the Mountain West Conference. My team are the BYU Cougars, based at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. BYU is one of the largest private universities in the USA and is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). They do, however, have a rich heritage of football. Some of the names and events you may or may not recognize:
Lavell Edwards- BYU Head Coach from 1972-2000 retiring with a 258–101–3 record, a .722 winning percentage. He was offered the Detroit Lions head coach’s role in 1984 and has won many awards. He is credited with one of the most passing minded offensive schemes in College football. This is eveidenced through some of the names who quarterbacked BYU during his tenure.
Steve Young- everyone is aware of Young’s Hall of Fame professional career, but as BYU quarterback (1981-1983) he set numerous records and was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He finished his BYU career with 592 pass completions for 7,733 yards and 56 touchdowns, along with 1,048 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. He finished second in the Heisman voting.
Jim McMahon- not the most obvious quarterback for a Latter-day Saint university (indeed, upon being drafted by the Bears he was at pains to show up with a beer in his hand making it known he was not a Mormon). He played for BYU from 1978-1981. He left BYU with 9,536 passing yards and 84 touchdown passes, 71 NCAA records and tied for one other. He was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Ty Detmer- although not having as stellar NFL careers as Young or McMahon, Detmer had a College carrer (1988-91; 1987 was a redshirt season) that broke many of the records set by Young and McMahon. He won the Heisman in his junior year with an amazing season by any standards: passing for 5,188 yards and 41 touchdowns accumulating 47 NCAA records along the way. He finished his College career with 1,530 pass attempts; 958 completions; 15,031 passing yards; 121 touchdown passes; 14,665 yards of total offense; ; and a 162.7 passer rating. These statistics included 62 NCAA records.
1984- BYU were the last national champions who are not currently part of the BCS.
Perhaps frustrated with relatively consistent success in the Mountain West Conference with little opportunity to challenge for major bowls (in the current skewed state of BCS invitations) BYU have announced in the past week their intention to leave the MWC and become a football independent. This means that like Notre Dame they will be able to determine their own schedule and thus have a better chance of earning a more prestigious bowl invitation. It is a huge gamble, because unlike Notre Dame they do not have a guaranteed BCS invitation if they finish in the top 8 nationally. In this way they are more like Army and Navy (the other two football independents).
But what does the last season in the MWC hold for BYU. It has already begun well but strangely with a 23-17 victory over Washington. This has not been enough to get into the top 25 (though on voting they are just outside in the Coaches and AP polls). This was not the strange start… the peculiar thing is the fact that they have two starting quarterbacks. In the Washington game the QBs alternated series’. Bizarrely both quarterbacks threw for exactly 131 yards (Rliey Nelson completed 11 of 17 passes while Jason Heaps completed 13 of 23). Both have big shoes to fill, both in terms of the distant and recent past. Last year’s quarterback was Max Hall (he who has impressed the Cardinals so much that they were comfortable releasing Matt Leinart). But who are Heaps and Nelson:
Jason Heaps is a true freshman QB (6’2” and 205lbs) who was the most highly rated at that position coming out of High School by scout.com.
Riley Nelson (6’0” and 201lbs) is a junior who played 8 games as a freshman starter for Utah State University in 2006 and was back up to Max Hall in 2009 at BYU. He transferred to BYU following a two year mission for the LDS Church.
There is a mix of youth and maturity in the BYU QB position that should make 2010 an interesting year that leads all the way to a Bowl game (we live in hope).