Barring something completely unforeseen, like the end of the world, BYU coach LaVell Edwards will become the lucky 13th Division 1-A football coach to win 200 games, joining legends like Bear Bryant and Pop Warner.
Edwards just hopes win No. 200 comes in September."I don't give a lot of thought to winning 200 games, but it would be nice to get there soon just because we open with league games," said Edwards, who has 197 victories and counting.
Edwards' Cougars have dominated the WAC and gained national respect during his 22-year reign. BYU has won or shared 16 conference championships and played in 18 bowl games, including 16 in a row. Edwards has received WAC, district and national coach of the year accolades. BYU's heavy reliance and success passing the ball has helped revolutionize the college game to where most schools now have more wide-open offensive attacks. BYU even won the national championship in 1984.
Yet the Cougars still have something to prove as Edwards begins his 23rd season. BYU tied for a conference title and went to another Holiday Bowl last year, but the season was still a major disappointment. A 6-6 record and losses to Utah and Utah State make for a long offseason in Provo.
"Last year was not the type of year we expect at BYU. We want more than that," quarterback John Walsh said. "We have the team that can get BYU back up to where we're supposed to be."
National coaches and WAC media agree. The Cougars are ranked No. 20 in the USA Today preseason coaches poll and were picked by media members at the WAC meetings to win the conference title.
The offense should again be potent. The Cougars were second in the nation in passing last year and all three quarterbacks return, including All-America candidate Walsh. As a sophomore last season Walsh threw for 3,727 yards and completed 62 percent of his passes. He will be backed up by seniors Steve Clements and Tom Young.
Bryce Doman (37 catches, 455 yards, seven touchdowns) and Tim Nowatzke (23 catches, 364 yards) lead the receiving corps, while sophomore tight ends Chad Lewis and Itula Mili figure to be fixtures in the passing attack.
Running back Jamal Willis rushed for 1,004 yards in '92 but gained just 404 during a frustrating, injury-plagued season last year. He will be joined in the backfield by Hema Heimuli, who showed flashes of brilliance despite injuries last year. Mark Atuaia returns from a mission for his sophomore season and has looked good in practice. T.D. Biegel and Tefua Bloomfield will give the Cougars depth at the running back position.
The offensive line is big, as usual, and should be one of the better in the WAC. Three starters - Evan Pilgrim, Eli Herring and Jim Edwards - return, although Edwards has moved from his tackle position to center.
The offense, no doubt, will score points. The Cougar defense, which was last in the WAC and third to the worst in the nation in '93, will be the key to BYU's season.
The defensive line, with Randy Brock and Travis Hall anchoring the ends, should be improved. Junior college transfers Mike Ulufale and John Raass could also become outstanding linemen.
The linebackers will be almost completely new. Four junior college stars will be called upon to contribute immediately. Sophomore middle linebacker Shay Muirbrook is the only Cougar with major college experience. Transfers Ed Lamb, Stan Raass, Jim Freeland and Scott Albrecht will bolster the group.
Two new coaches, Barry Lamb and DeWayne Walker, are in charge of the secondary. Patrick Mitchell, Jack Damuni and Cory Cook are returning starters, while Jamie Cook, Dermmell Reed and James Heggins are transfers who will see action in the defensive backfield.
The special teams should be in good hands (feet?) with sophomore Alan Boardman, who finished ninth nationally last year, handling the punting duties and David Lauder, a veteran from the '92 season who sat our last year, the place kicker.
Edwards wasn't happy BYU was forced to open the year with four WAC games last season, but it turned out it was the team's saving grace. The Cougars went 4-0 to open the year, but were 2-6 the rest of the way. The fast start was enough to give the Cougs a 6-2 record in the conference and a piece of the crown.
The Cougars have four straight WAC games at the start again this year. They will be at Hawaii - where they haven't won since '88 - to open the '94 campaign next Saturday, before playing at Air Force Sept. 10. The Cougars first home game is Sept. 17 against Colorado State. The top two non-WAC opponents are Notre Dame (on the road Oct. 15) and Arizona State (Oct. 29 in Provo).
"We have a chance to be a pretty good ballclub," said Edwards, which is a quote he has used prior to most of this 23 seasons. He's usually right too.
BYU '94 schedule
Sep. 3 at Hawaii 11 p.m.
Sep. 10 at Air Force 1:30 p.m.
Sep. 17 Colorado State Noon
Sep. 24 New Mexico Noon
Sep. 30 Utah State 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 at Fresno State 8 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Notre Dame 11:30 a.m.
Oct. 22 at UTEP 7 p.m.
Oct. 29 Arizona State Noon
Nov. 5 NE Louisiana Noon
Nov. 10 San Diego State 6 p.m.
Nov. 19 at Utah 1 p.m.
Radio: KSL (AM-1160)
Tickets: 378-BYU1; 1-800-322-2981
Fan hotline: 378-TEAM
Home games tape delayed on KBYU-TV (Channel 11) Saturdays at 9 p.m and Mondays at 10:30 p.m.
BYU's 1993 season (6-6)
Date BYU Opponent Opp. Site
Sept. 4 34 New Mexico 31 Albuquerque
Sept. 11 41 Hawaii 38 Provo
Sept. 18 27 Colorado St. 22 Fort Collins
Sept. 25 30 Air Force 3 Provo
Oct. 9 14 UCLA 68 Pasadena
Oct. 16 20 Notre Dame 45 Provo
Oct. 23 45 Fresno St. 48 Provo
Oct. 30 56 Utah St. 58 Logan
Nov. 11 45 San Diego St. 48 San Diego
Nov. 20 34 Utah 31 Provo
Nov. 27 47 Texas-El Paso 16 Provo
Dec. 30 21 Ohio St. 28 San Diego
(Holiday Bowl XVI)