The BYU attack may not have sprung full-blown from Edwards' mind, but he deserves most of the credit. "I've heard some people who've left here try to take credit for the offense," says Holmgren, "but we've had different coordinators, different quarterback coaches, different quarterbacks and different receivers. The only constant has been LaVell Edwards."
"There aren't any geniuses around here," says Edwards, 53, a low-key sort who slouches around practice in a golf hat and lets his assistants do most of the yelling. "My philosophy is that you can't do it all, and you have to make up your mind what you're good at. We have a great athlete in Steve Young, so we could probably be very successful running the option. But we don't want to run the option, so we don't waste time practicing it. We're a drop-back passing team, and that's what we're going to work on."
And work on harder than any team in college football. The Cougar quarterbacks, Young included, have had trouble with sore arms because they throw the ball so much—maybe 200 times—in practice. Occasionally, BYU finds time to work on its alleged ground game. The Cougars have a grand total of four running plays: draw, draw-trap, off-tackle and sweep. Surprisingly, they've worked well enough at times, such as in the 37-35 defeat of UCLA on Oct. 1, when the Cougars gained 265 yards on the ground. "They had seven men playing deep," says Young. "We had to run."
What's eye-catching about BYU's passing drills is how infrequently the ball touches the ground when Young is throwing. That's what captured Brandt's attention when he watched a Cougar practice last year. "Young simply refuses to throw a bad pass," says Brandt. "That's not the case everywhere you go. Even some good quarterbacks throw it all over the place once in a while. Not Young. Can Hudson catch a bad ball? I don't know. He's never had to do it."
Hudson hardly foresaw such heroics from his pal on the day he met Young, when both were freshmen. "Here's this guy who's built like a fullback and he's wearing these strange high-topped shoes," recalls Hudson with obvious glee. "The first time he goes back to pass he stumbles and falls on his butt. I said to myself, 'What is this guy, a walk-on?' He looked ridiculous."
And Young felt ridiculous after spending the first few weeks on the scout team. A wishbone and veer quarterback at Greenwich High, he didn't attract anyone's attention as a thrower. Young called home and said he was thinking about quitting and coming back to Connecticut. His father replied in a manner worthy of a guy named Grit: "You can quit, but you can't come home." Young gradually improved while quarterbacking the jayvee team, but Edwards still planned to switch him to safety in his sophomore year.
That might've happened had Ted Tollner, BYU's quarterback coach at the time and now the head coach at USC, not seen Young throwing in the field house in January after the season. Young's quick release caught Tollner's attention, and he suggested that Young be kept at quarterback. Edwards took Tollner's suggestion, and Young won the backup job. He learned under McMahon as a sophomore before becoming a starter last year.
Hudson didn't walk through the gates of BYU on a red carpet either. He was recruited mainly because of the athletic skill he showed as a basketball player, and the coaches at first thought they might play him at linebacker if he didn't workout at tight end. He did. As a sophomore, Hudson caught 33 passes from McMahon in the Cougars' final three games, and a star was born.
Grabbing 67 passes for the second straight season earned Hudson consensus All-America honors last year. He has worked particularly hard in the weight room, getting up to 235 pounds, and he says he has improved his strength. The scouts hope so, because his blocking remains the one question mark about his pro future. "Well, Gordie may be stronger," says Young, "but you still see this guy with his shirt off and you think, 'This is an All-America?' "
As for the future, Hudson says, "We're thinking about telling the pros that we're a package deal. Can't have one without the other." Certainly, most any team would want both, or either.