Despite his success this season, Sarkisian understands that Cougars fans could turn on him at any minute, as they did in the first half of the Texas A&M game. He has heard the stories: In 1984 Bosco, now the Brigham Young quarterbacks coach, finished third in the Heisman voting and led BYU to its only national title. But in the Cougars' home opener the following season, a 27-24 loss to UCLA, he was roundly booed after throwing a second-half interception. Walsh, for his part, passed for 7,439 yards in his last two years in Provo, yet one of the most indelible moments of his college career came when BYU fans showered his hometown friends—who were loudly cheering for him—with insults and, later, punches during a loss at UCLA in 1993.
"You could bring Steve Young back under some other name," says Edwards, "and fans would say, 'Well, he's lefthanded, but he's no Steve Young.' Fans always want more."
"Oh, Steve will handle it O.K.," Chow says of Sarkisian. "Nothing really gets to him. Anyway, there are fans who will always be yelling for the backup quarterback. That will never change."
Despite Florida State's No. 2 ranking, the Seminoles entered last Saturday's game against North Carolina with serious concerns about a defense that finished 31st in the nation last season. "That's not conducive to contending for a national title," coach Bobby Bowden said two days before the game. But this is: Florida State's defense held previously undefeated North Carolina to 187 yards and didn't allow the Tar Heels inside the Seminoles' 30-yard line during a 13-0 victory. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like it," North Carolina coach Mack Brown said of Florida State's defensive prowess.
The success of the Seminoles' fast-break offense, which flies at Mach 5, has long cast a shadow over the feats of the defense. But 10 of the last 16 Seminoles taken in the first three rounds of the NFL draft have been defensive players. And this year Bowden might have his most talented defense yet. The two ends, senior Reinard Wilson and junior Peter Boulware (12 tackles and 4� sacks between them last Saturday), wreaked so much havoc on the Tar Heels that Brown labeled them the best in the country. The unit has also been bolstered by the improved health of middle linebacker Daryl Bush, the junior Butkus Award candidate who had off-season surgery after playing all of last year with a damaged left knee.
The Seminoles could not have chosen a better time to reassert themselves defensively. Their offense, which Bowden called "ragged" despite the 83 points they scored in their first two games, continues to struggle. Last Saturday, Florida State gained just 213 yards, including, for the second time in three games, less than 100 passing yards. "I don't think we can play any worse than we've been playing," said tailback Warrick Dunn.
Wilson hardly seemed worried. An hour after the North Carolina game ended, he sat on a stool in the Seminoles' locker room and explained: "This is FSU. The offense is going to score points. For now, though, the defense will be happy to give a little lift."
Oklahoma State's David Thompson appears to be the latest in the Cowboys' long line of brilliant running backs, which has included Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders. Thompson, who has rushed for 469 yards in Oklahoma State's last two games, credits much of his success to his daily viewing of Sanders's highlight tapes.