Wyatt took a
nosedive because last Nov. 3, in a game against Northern Iowa, his right foot
caught on the artificial turf while he was making a routine cut, and his knee
ligaments were shredded. He had five hours of reconstructive surgery the next
day. While his mobility, such as it was, wasn't affected, the pros were
suddenly disenchanted. A knee brace is never a pretty sight on a quarterback if
his name isn't Namath.
This year Wyatt
added relative ineptitude to injury by completing only 57 passes in 101
attempts in the Lumberjacks' four games before facing Idaho; in that span he
averaged a dreary, for him, 175 yards passing per game. In 1988, he was a
stunning 183 of 301 for 2,150 yards before his season ended.
is not his knee, which is sound, but his receivers, who are not. Last year his
favorite target was Shawn Collins, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons.
Coach Larry Kentera thought he had plugged the hole by bringing in two junior
college wide receivers, but one flunked out and the other hasn't played yet
because of injuries. Then another prospect, Glenn Posey, broke both hands
during spring practice, and was lost for the year, and tight end Erin Motes
severed his right big toe while operating a trenching machine on a summer
construction job. Motes only recently returned to the lineup.
effort against the Vandals redeemed him. "He needed a big game," says
Thomas. "If he puts up more numbers like that, he could be back up as a
catastrophe, Wyatt, who has 9,023 career passing yards, will soon become the
Big Sky's second-leading alltime passer, but he's likely to end up behind
Friesz, who has 8,823. The record holder is former Idaho quarterback Ken
Hobart, who passed for 9,300 from 1980 to '83.
fortune is having receivers like Kasey Dunn, who is averaging 14.84 yards on 38
receptions, and Lee Allen (17.95 on 38). Says Allen, "When John shines, I
shine, we all shine."
What has the
scouts nervous about Friesz is his propensity to force the ball into coverage,
a habit that has cost him 37 interceptions in his career. But then the scouts
start grinning again as they watch Friesz effortlessly throw a 14-yard out from
a hash mark to the opposite sideline—a pass of 40 yards or more and the
ultimate test of a big-time arm.
Other than Idaho,
Friesz was wanted only by New Mexico after he graduated from Coeur d'Alene
( Idaho) High, and that was too far from home. He didn't start until his senior
year in high school. Wyatt, who hails from Phoenix, went to Northern Arizona
because no other school wanted him. Upon his arrival, says Kentera, "the
only reason I red-shirted him was not to save his eligibility but because I saw
no way he could ever help us."
Friesz says he
could be happy living his life in Coeur d'Alene; Wyatt would be content to sell
real estate in Phoenix. Their numbers are remarkably close, too—65 career
touchdown passes for Friesz, 61 for Wyatt.
And while both
are undeniably slow afoot—possibly you remember Dan Fouts or have noticed
Bernie Kosar—their minds are quick, and their dedication is total. Their arms,
in different ways, are world-class. And they are young men of character. Not a
bad base to build on.
—DOUGLAS S. LOONEY