- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The Cache Valley in northern Utah is known for its fine cheese. Unless a milking machine breaks down, the serenity of the lovely valley is usually undisturbed. But there have been a few raucous moments. A century and a half ago trapper Jim Bridger blew his top when he discovered that somebody had swiped his cache of furs, and more recently, after Utah State University officials decided to change the school's nickname from Aggies to Scotsmen and dress the marching band in kilts, the boos in Romney Stadium in Logan shook the antlers off half the deer in the Wasatch Range. The Aggies quickly became the Aggies again.
Last Saturday there was another explosion in the Cache Valley when Utah State, ranked second in the nation in passing offense, ran into intrastate rival Brigham Young University, which was ranked first. BYU Quarterback Marc Wilson was first in the nation in total offense, with an average of more than 272 yards a game. Utah State Quarterback Eric Hippie was second.
It was quite a confrontation and it drew a record crowd of 28,094 people to Romney Stadium. Sure, a crowd of 28,000 could be hidden in an upper corner of one section at Ann Arbor or Columbus, but Logan's population at the last census was only 22,000; the crowd broke the old stadium record by 6,500. It got its money's worth, too, even though the home team lost, as Wilson outpassed Hippie to lead BYU to a rousing 48-24 win.
BYU was lucky to have Wilson at all this year, because just before the start of fall practice he suffered an attack of appendicitis while on a pack trip into Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains. He thought it was the flu and when he came down out of the wild—on a horse rather than his own two feet—his ailment wasn't diagnosed for eight days, during which he threw a football around, played golf and passed the physical exam for his senior season with the Cougars.
As skinny as Ichabod Crane even when he is healthy, the 6'5" Wilson came out of the hospital emaciated, but still missed only a week of two-a-day drills. Despite his lost weight and lack of conditioning, he was pressed into service. He had already been redshirted a year, so BYU Coach La Veil Edwards put him in the lineup and redshirted his outstanding backup, Jim McMahon.
BYU has a Deepfreeze crammed with quarterbacks. Gifford Nielsen, now with the Houston Oilers, was going great in 1977 when he got injured; Wilson stepped in and threw seven touchdown passes in his first start. Wilson got hurt last year; McMahon stepped in and made first-team all-conference. Danny Hartwig, a quarterback who had enrolled at BYU the same year as Wilson, saw he might not play much and transferred to Cal Lutheran. Now pro scouts say he'll be drafted.
Although BYU loves to have Wilson pass—against Hawaii this season he hit 28 of 49 for 342 yards and three TDs—the Cougars can do other things, too. Homer Jones is one of the country's leading all-purpose runners and Eric Lane, a nephew of ex-Utah State star Mac Arthur Lane, can catch passes and run. And that's not all. Before last Saturday's game BYU had the best pass defense in the Western Athletic Conference and was in the top 25 defensively in the country.
"We've got so much teamwork," says Wilson, a good student who wants to be a lawyer. "In other years there was a division between the offense and defense, partly because of the publicity offense gets. We're together now."
Utah State's Hippie is as muscular as Wilson is scrawny. Like Wilson, who is from Seattle, Hippie is from out of state—Downey, Calif.—but he was not heavily recruited. A Utah State assistant coach on vacation happened to see him flinging the ball in a summer league and tabbed him as a prospect.
Last year he was the NCAA's 15th-best passer statistically and, despite the burden of an effete name, Eric Ellsworth Hippie proved adept at knocking down would-be tacklers on running plays.