If you ask Jake Heaps if he thinks that five or ten years from now November 27, 2010, will be remembered as one of the pivotal moments in his career, he will probably answer, “No.” Like the rest of the Brigham Young Cougars, he is likely feeling sick to his stomach, and can’t wait to get the bad taste out of his mouth. Erasing the game from his memory would be a welcomed alternative. As Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall stressed following the game, even though BYU came up short on the scoreboard, the team “improved and took a step forward.” No player better fits that assessment of the game than Jake Heaps.
This game was akin to the 1973 loss to Iowa State. Despite losing to the Cyclones, everyone who saw the game knew that something big was about to happen at BYU. This was the day that Gary Sheide had his coming out party. The Utah game on November 27, 2010, will be remembered as the day that Jake Heaps established that he has the proverbial “it.” While Heaps had shown dramatic improvement over the previous three games, uncertainty still existed as to how much of his improvement should be attributed to playing vastly inferior competition.
Last Saturday, the true freshman entered hostile, enemy territory and did everything necessary for the team to win. Heaps was helpless to do anything about the shanked punt, the Brandon Bradley fumble, and the blocked field goal. He finished the day 22 of 37 (59.5%) for 228 yards and a touchdown pass. Not gaudy stats, but a little perspective helps you appreciate what Heaps did. Max Hall never completed more than 51.2% of his passes against Utah. As a senior, Hall threw for only about half as many yards (134), and he only threw for 205 yards in 2008. It took Max three years to throw a touchdown against the Utes. This comparison is not intended to bash Max, but purely for contextual purposes.
While the improved stats were nice, there is more to “it” than statistics. There was more to Heaps than his stats on Saturday. In 2009, BYU went up 20-6 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. The Cougars had five more possessions in regulation, but only gained one first down the rest of the game (on the third possession). One more first down, and Utah would not have had time to kick a game tying field goal with 29 seconds left. With Heaps at the helm on Saturday, BYU had different results.
Utah had just cut the BYU lead to three, 13-10, early in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing possession, Heaps threw to Cody Hoffman for five yards to convert a 3rd and 3. He threw for another first down on a 10 yard completion to Devin Mahina. On 3rd and 8, Heaps hit J.J. Di Luigi for 12 yards. On 3rd and 6, Heaps found McKay Jacobson for 28 yards to the Utah 13-yard line. These four first down throws got BYU into field goal range and allowed BYU to bump the lead to 16-10.
The next time Heaps stepped on the field, BYU trailed 17-16, with 4:21 to play. BYU confronted a 3rd and 9 on the third play of the drive. Heaps was cool, calm, and collected. He took the snap and found Mahina again for 22 yards. Three of the next four plays were pass plays. Heaps completed all three of them. The final pass to Jacobson for 12 yards put BYU exactly where they needed to be—field goal range. Not only did Heaps get BYU into field goal range, he had managed the clock perfectly.
With four seconds left, Heaps left the field. He played his best football when it mattered most. He had overcome the strange turn of events and set up his team to win—there is no denying it. And there is no denying that Jake Heaps has “it.”
Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Poll Results: Which BYU-Utah Game In The 2000s Had The Best Finish?
Was Saturday The "End" of The BYU-Utah Rivalry? No Way!
Game Recap: Utah 17, BYU 16
Game Preview: BYU vs. Utah
Remembering the Rivalry: BYU 34, Utah 27 (2000)
Thursday Trivia: Last Win Against Utah By More Than Seven Points
Remembering the Rivalry: BYU 45, Utah 22 (1990)
Remembering the Rivalry: BYU 38, Utah 28 (1985)
Remembering the Rivalry: BYU 56, Utah 6 (1980)