Following the Brigham Young Cougars’ seemingly easy 30-6 win over Washington State, quarterback Riley Nelson sat before the press and took questions. Nelson had led his team to victory, but something was bugging him.
You could hear it in his voice. As he spoke, he sounded on edge.
Nelson fumed, “When an opposing team comes in saying, ‘We’re going to look like BYU more than BYU will,’ how are you supposed to take that?”
Judging by Nelson’s tenor, the blue Cougars took it personal.
Nelson continued, “It was clearly evident tonight that BYU looked like BYU and the other team was the other team.”
Who from Washington State—the other team—said this? It was none other than head coach Mike Leach. He said it during a conference call the Saturday before the game. I was on that call and heard the question that prompted this answer, which was much more than just the sound bite “We’re going to look like BYU more than BYU will.”
In case you forgot, Leach is a BYU graduate—1983 to be exact. He was a student at BYU during the glory years of LaVell Edwards’ dynamic offense. Therefore, one of the other media members on the call asked Leach to comment on how Edwards’ offense of the early 80s influenced his offensive philosophy.
Leach began by pouring praise on Edwards calling him “easily one of the greatest coaches who ever coached.” He explained that some of the plays in his playbook were the same plays BYU ran 30 years ago. That is where the looking more like BYU than BYU came in.
The BYU brand was built on the wide open offensive philosophy to pass every down and use the entire field. That is not what BYU coaches were talking about in fall camp 2012. Offensive balance was being stressed. Passing for 300 yards each game was still a goal, but so was rushing for 150 yards. The 1980s LaVell Edwards Cougars never worried about rushing for 100 yards in a game, let alone 150.
That is the context, and in the moment, there was nothing offensive about it. I didn’t think twice.
Doesn’t matter. This was bulletin board material.
The BYU players did take offense. They didn’t care what the context was. They may share mascots with Washington State, but that was the limit to their shared identity.
I am fine with that. I like what is says about this team; its attitude and demeanor. They mean business. They don’t want anyone to touch them, not even with a 10-foot poll.
The moral of the story is that bulletin board material is easy to come by.
Looking ahead, I am wondering how we can get Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham to make a similar statement. Something like, “You see us here at Utah? We look more like BYU than BYU. I played football at BYU. My defensive coordinator played at BYU, and so did one of my offensive coaches. Heck, I recently hired my brother Fred as the Director of Player Personnel. We all played under the great LaVell Edwards. We have rerouted the Polynesian Pipeline north to Salt Lake City, and Vai Sikahema can be seen in red more than blue nowadays. Clearly, we look more like BYU than BYU.”
The next week, it would be nice if Boise State head coach Chris Petersen would pop off to reports and say, “At Boise State, we believe we look more like BYU than BYU. We wear the royal blue. We finish seasons ranked in the top 10. My players are going to the NFL and making a difference. We are the non-AQ darling of the west. That is what BYU was 30 years ago, but that is what Boise State is now.”
Just no quotes out of BYU about being more Notre Dame than Notre Dame, please.
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