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BYU LOOKING TO BEAT UTES, WIN WAC

In most respects the 1994 BYU football season was a huge success. The Cougars won 10 games, beat perennial national powers Notre Dame and Oklahoma and finished with their best national ranking - No. 10 in the CNN/USA Today poll - since their glorious 1984 national championship year.

But in a couple of ways '84 was hard to swallow for BYU coaches, players and fans. They didn't win the WAC title to earn their usual Holiday Bowl trip and they lost to archrival Utah, 34-31, for the second year row.It didn't take long for the new kid on the block, quarterback Steve Sarkisian, to learn the objectives for '95.

"Our goals are to beat Utah and win the WAC," said Sarkisian following the annual Blue-White game to close spring practice in March.

"If we don't win the WAC and go to the Holiday Bowl this year I'd be very upset," Cougar running back Hema Heimuli said. "All BYU fans and players expect us to win the WAC and go to the Holiday Bowl and will be disappointed if we don't."

BYU returns nine starters from last year's team, only three of which are on the offense side of the football.

Heimuli, tight end Chad Lewis and tackle James Johnson are the only offensive starters back. Several non-starting contributors to last year's team - like tight end Itula Mili, running back Mark Atuaia and receivers Mike Johnston and Kaipo McGuire - return too.

The biggest question marks on the offense are at quarterback and on the line.

Sarkisian, who takes over for John Walsh, enters with impressive credentials coming out of junior college and has looked good in practices. He threw for 4,297 yards and 41 touchdowns for El Camino J.C. last season and had three TD passes in the spring game. But Sarkisian has never had the pressure of having to perform in front of 65,000 fans and a national television audience.

Edwards is pleased with the progress of Sarkisian but says it may take time before BYU's first J.C. quarterback to come right in and start since Gary Sheide (in 1973) is completely comfortable with the system.

"We're going to have some bumpy times (offensively) early in the season," Edwards predicted. "(Sarkisian) will have a chance to get things going if he can get through the first four games."

Adding to the bumpy ride will be the training of a new offensive line. BYU had three linemen - Tim Hanshaw, Evan Pilgrim and Eli Herring - drafted by NFL teams this spring and three-year starting center Jim Edwards is also gone. Will Knight, who would have been a senior, was a projected starter at left guard, but will miss the season due to a viral infection in his leg that required surgery.

Only left tackle Johnson is a returning starter. Matt Meservy (6-5, 305) and Elias Faupula (6-3, 285) will be on the right side with Morris Unutoa (6-2, 275) as the center and redshirt freshman Eric Bateman (6-7, 270) as a left guard. Junior college transfers Charles Jones (6-6, 300), Larry Moore (6-3, 270) and Greg Hoagland (6-4, 280) will push the returnees for playing time.

The defensive front seven should be the strongest part of the team early in the year. Five of the seven are returning starters, while new defensive ends Ed Kehl, a redshirt freshman from Brighton High, and senior Matt Redden have been impressive in camp.

The interior defensive linemen, John Raass (6-0, 300) and Mike Ulufale (6-5, 285), are big yet athletic. The linebacking corps returns intact with Shay Muirbrook in the middle and Stan Raass and Dennis Simmons on the strong and weak sides respectively. Muirbrook and Raass are both all-WAC candidates.

The secondary is suspect at the corners due to a lack of depth, but if the starters can stay healthy the group should get the job done. Jamie Cook, a senior, is a returning starter at strong safety and will be backed up by another senior Jon Pollock. Freshman Jason Walker from Springville will be the weakside safety with veterans Eddie Sampson and Philip Giordano backing him up.

Senior Dermmell Reed returns to one of the corner positions with Tim McTyer, a junior college transfer, taking over the other side. Because three cornerbacks were expelled from school due to BYU honor code violations this summer, James Dye, a transfer from Utah State who was to be a receiver, has been moved to cornerback and will see some action.

"Tim and I are going to have to stay healthy and be the men," Reed said. "Fans don't need to worry about us. We'll get the job done."

The Cougars start the year Sept. 2 at Air Force, the hottest team in the WAC at the end of last season. The Falcons won 8 of their last 9 games a year ago with the only loss by a touchdown to Notre Dame.

The home opener is Sept. 9 against BYU, a team the Cougars haven't seen since being embarrassed 68-14 by the Bruins in 1993. The other non-WAC games will be against Arizona State in Tempe and at home against Tulsa.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

'95 BYU schedule

Date Opponent Time

Sept. 2 at Air Force 10:30 a.m.

Sept. 9 UCLA 5 p.m.

Sept. 16 San Diego St. 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 30 at Colorado St.Noon

Oct. 14 at Arizona St. 8 p.m.

Oct. 21 Wyoming 5 p.m.

Oct. 28 Hawaii Noon

Nov. 4 Tulsa Noon

Nov. 11 at New Mexico 1 p.m.

Nov. 18 Utah Noon

Nov. 25 at Fresno St. 3 p.m.

Radio: KSL AM-1160

Tickets: 378-BYU1 or 1-800-322-2981