The first question today, class, is: Should we take Brigham Young seriously? This isn't an idle query, because the Cougars, who are 9-0 and in just about everybody's Top 5, are closing in on No. 1. BYU No. 1? It even sounds funny. But are the Cougars honestly—honestly—any good? "Gosh, I don't know," says their coach, LaVell Edwards. "Maybe we're on the verge of being pretty good."
Indeed, the feeling around Provo is that BYU is as surprised as anyone to suddenly find itself mentioned in sentences that start with Washington, Texas or Nebraska. And a little embarrassed, too. Says athletic director Glen Tuckett, "We don't have a maniacal rage around here to be No. 1. We just think there are redeeming things about athletics being good for their own sake."
A lot of administrators at schools with big-time football programs espouse such ideals, but Cougar players and coaches actually put them into practice, on the field and off. Consider that at BYU every student—a term that also includes the football players—signed a Code of Honor upon applying for admission. The applicant had to answer a number of questions affirmatively, including:
"Do you live the law of chastity? This includes abstinence from all sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage. Do you observe the Word of Wisdom? This includes abstinence from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea and coffee. Do you observe high standards of taste and decency? This includes refraining from disorderly, lewd, indecent, or obscene conduct and expression."
O.K., now that you know the rules, go out and recruit yourself a football team. Good heavens, as Brigham Young himself might have said, that seems an impossible task. Not if you're La Veil Edwards. Consider that between 1922, when BYU began playing football, and 1971 its record was 174-235-23 against a lot of less-than-starry opposition. The Cougars won one championship during that span, the Western Athletic Conference title in 1965. Since Edwards became the coach in 1972 BYU has gone 114-37-1. And with its 42-9 rout of hapless Texas-El Paso last Saturday, Brigham Young clinched its ninth straight WAC crown.
The Cougars did it in what has become their style. They threw the ball with skill and dedication, and then they threw it some more. BYU passed 32 times and ran 20, and the reason it ran that much was to keep the score from rising to tasteless and obscene proportions. Don't forget the Code of Honor.
Pulling the trigger for the Cougars was Robbie Bosco, who completed 19 of 31 passes for 237 yards and four TDs with one interception (only his fifth of the season in 318 attempts) to remain the No. 1 college passer. "Not a great day," said Bosco, which gives some idea of his expectations. "Throwing an interception ruined it for me." All Bosco, a 6'2�", 188-pound junior from Roseville, Calif., did was show off an up-the-field arm that's better than former BYU star Steve Young's and display the cool intellect of a young man who does exactly what he's told. Draw up a play on the blackboard, and Bosco does precisely what the chalk says. No free-lancing. Adjusting, sure, but no craziness.
"Gosh," says Bosco, who says "gosh" a lot, "when you have five receivers out on every play, you ought to be able to find one of them open. I think every play we call will work, even if it's the wrong play against the wrong defense. See, on every play we know where to throw, whom to throw to and when to throw. Then all I have to do is do it."
Notwithstanding his dissatisfaction with his play against UTEP, Bosco's performance was as gorgeous as the snowcapped Wasatch Mountains that serve as the backdrop for Cougar Stadium. With nine minutes left in the first quarter, Bosco rolled left and lofted a 42-yard scoring pass down the sideline to wide receiver Glen Kozlowski. Gorgeous. Except it was a broken play. Koz was to cut in front of the cornerback and Bosco was to take a quick five-step drop and fire. But Kozlowski saw the strong safety moving away from him and decided to streak past the cornerback. That's how Bosco read things, too. "We lack talent," says Kozlowski, "but Coach Edwards finds ways to get us to overachieve."
Bosco's other scoring passes were far more in the BYU style: a four-yarder to wide receiver Adam Haysbert, an 11-yarder to split end Mark Bellini, a six-yarder to Haysbert. Just like a little run, these were little passes. Tight end Dave Mills had, yes, a gorgeous day, with six receptions for 72 yards, and Bosco completed at least two passes to each of six receivers. Talk about knowing how to keep peace in the family. Losing coach Bill Yung surveyed the damage and suggested it would be a good idea for BYU to leave the WAC and take its wrecking ball elsewhere. Like the Pac-10.