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COLLEGE FOOTBALL : THE FREEDOM BOWL : BYU Quarterback Factory Stalled by Lack of Offense

December 31, 1986|JIM McCURDIE | Times Staff Writer

They're accepting applications at the Quarterback Factory.

This season, for the first time in several, there were some flaws in production that quality control missed.

Brigham Young University, once the proud home of some of college football's best quarterbacks and one of its best offenses, was without either this season.

In 1986, the Cougars won games with defense. Their offense depended on establishing the running game.

It didn't work, at least not by the standards BYU set in winning a 1984 national championship and making Provo, Utah, the unofficial headquarters of the forward pass.

For the first time in 11 seasons, BYU didn't win the Western Athletic Conference championship. This was not what the folks in Provo had become accustomed to. The Cougars even had a quarterback controversy.

The uncharacteristic offensive problems were there for all to see in Tuesday night's 31-10 loss to UCLA in the third Freedom Bowl in Anaheim Stadium. It was the fourth time this season BYU had been held to 10 points or less. One of those was a 10-7 loss to Oregon State, a team UCLA beat, 49-0. Another was a 10-3 loss to San Diego State in a game for the WAC title.

The latter loss was the reason BYU was playing in the Freedom Bowl Tuesday, instead of its usual trip to San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium for the Holiday Bowl.

One line in the final statistics tells volumes of the offensive problems BYU had against UCLA: The Cougars were 3 of 17 in third-down conversions. At one point, they were 0 for 12. This made for plenty of national television exposure for BYU punter Pat Thompson, and a long night for Coach LaVell Edwards.

"We're not as good offensively as we've been in other years," Edwards said. "That's obvious.

"We've always run the ball a little better than we've gotten credit for. This year, we were good at it. We just weren't good at throwing the ball. It wasn't just the quarterback's fault. There were a lot of factors involved."

But, alas, it's the quarterback who gets the credit for success and the blame for failure. Sophomore quarterback Bob Jensen, who took the starting job away from senior Steve Lindsley and led the Cougars to a 23-3 victory over Air Force and a Freedom Bowl berth, had no such luck against the Bruins.

Jensen was 18 of 31 for 124 yards, with 3 interceptions. Junior Mike Young, younger brother Steve Young, passed for 97 yards in a mop-up role to make BYU's passing statistics look more respectable. But it was clear the inconsistent offense that haunted the Cougars much of season hurt them against UCLA.

Senior wide receiver Mark Bellini, who caught 63 passes for the Cougars last season, entered the Freedom Bowl with only 46. Bellini limped off the field after suffering stretched ligaments in his ankle, the final indignation in a frustrating season.

"I'm a firm believer in (the theory that) it doesn't matter who you're playing. If you execute, you can win. I put the blame on us. They have an excellent defensive football team, but I just thought we didn't execute tonight."

Said junior guard John Borgia: "Mistakes will kill ya, and they did. They didn't stop us, we stopped ourselves. They're a good defensive football team with good athletes. But I thought we self-destructed."

It's been that way much of 1986. This season, for a change, BYU's offense was in need of repairs.

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