JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Mike Empey has no trouble empathizing with his BYU team, which will go up against mighty Florida State in the Pigskin Classic this weekend.
He's been there, done that.
On Saturday, the Cougars will become the first team in the 11-year history of the Pigskin Classic to play in the game three times. In the 1991 edition, they met the Seminoles in Anaheim, Calif.
Empey, who is now BYU's offensive tackles and tight end coach, was a sophomore offensive lineman making his first collegiate start in '91. He's talked to his players about the experience, a game BYU lost, 44-28.
"I told them that going in as a starter for that game, I was nervous all summer long," Empey said. "Florida State was the preseason No. 1 team. I remember getting into the game and on the third or fourth play I realized that, hey, these guys are just college football players. They run fast but everything our coaches have taught us has prepared us for this. Nobody can fly or has an 'S' on their chests. They're human. Even though we lost, we gained so much more confidence after that, that it carried over to the rest of the season."
Four years ago today, BYU hosted the Pigskin Classic against then-No. 13 ranked Texas A&M. In a heart-stopper, the Cougars pulled off a 41-37 upset.
Empey is hoping for similar magic on Saturday against FSU. "We're going up against Goliath," he said. "I think we'll rise to the challenge."
BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL? Former BYU offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who left Provo to become the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State, told a Tallahassee newspaper recently that his old team has no chance against fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Florida State.
"I think it's going to be a big whuppin' — by Florida State," Chow said. "The weather, the speed of the game and the youthfulness of BYU's quarterbacks will create some real problems. I just don't think they have enough firepower."
Chow recalled BYU's 1991 Pigskin Classic loss to FSU. "We didn't really have a chance then," he said, "and I don't think (BYU) will have a chance now."