PROVO — Several years ago, a talented high school quarterback named Patrick Ramsey had decided to remain in his hometown of Ruston, La., and play for Louisiana Tech and its head coach, Gary Crowton.
Ramsey had attended Crowton's football camps as a youth and, at one point, had verbally committed to Tech. But before signing day in 1997 arrived, Ramsey took a recruiting trip to Tulane University in New Orleans. In the end, Ramsey switched allegiances and announced he was going to become a member of the Green Wave program.
Ramsey's change of heart about broke Crowton's heart.
"I knew him all through his high school career," said Crowton, who is now the head coach at BYU. "I'm very familiar with him and his family. I recruited him very heavily there . . . I was upset at the time about it."
Crowton hopes the 6-foot-3, 234-pound senior doesn't disappoint him again—by handing him a loss—when BYU and Tulane open their respective seasons Saturday afternoon (2:30 kickoff) at LaVell Edwards Stadium in the Black Coaches Association Classic. It's clear Crowton has the highest respect for Ramsey, who engineered the nation's third-best passing offense last season.
"He's outstanding," Crowton said. "You're not going to stop him because he gets the ball off so quick. You have to slow him down and confuse him and hopefully he'll make some bad decisions because he's going to move the ball. He's one of the better ones in the country. Our team is well-aware of that."
Ramsey, an All-America candidate, has filled in quite nicely for his predecessor, Shawn King, now of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. King, BYU fans painfully recall, dismantled the Cougars in the 1998 Liberty Bowl.
The past two seasons, Ramsey has started 21 games for the Green Wave and has thrown a touchdown pass in all of them. He owns more than 20 school passing records.
In 2001, Ramsey has to do without his favorite target of a year ago, Adrian Burnette, but a pair of seniors, Terrell Harris and Zander Robinson return as part of a stable of athletic wideouts. And when Ramsey isn't throwing the ball, he's usually handing off to Mewelde Moore, who rushed for 890 yards in 2000, the most by a Green Wave player since 1970.
So, could we see an old-fashioned shootout between BYU and Tulane on Saturday? After all, Crowton has brought a somewhat new offensive attack to BYU that he is counting on to put up big points this season. In fact, there are parallels between the two teams' offensive styles.
"There are some similarities in that they like to spread out like we do, they like to go no-huddle, they like to get rid of the ball as quick as the quarterback can catch it," Crowton said. "They do a lot of shotgun. We have some of those things in our offense."
Not that these similarities are coincidental. Scelfo's offensive coordinator is his older brother, Frank, who has been coaching at Tulane since 1996. Frank used to make the drive to Louisiana Tech every year to talk X's and O's with Crowton. "We've had hours and hours of conversation about football," Crowton said, "so he kind of knows what's up in my head."
Chris Scelfo, 37, is one of the youngest Division I head coaches and he is also very familiar with Crowton and BYU. While Crowton's BYU debut will come against Tulane, Scelfo's Tulane debut came against BYU, in that 98 Liberty Bowl. Just weeks before that game, coach Tommy Bowden left Tulane to take over at Clemson. Scelfo inherited an 11-0 squad that defeated the Cougars, 41-27.
"It was an amazing month," Scelfo recalled. "To go from assistant head coach at Georgia, getting ready for the Peach Bowl, to being named head coach of the school I had once dreamed of attending back in my home state. It happened so fast, yet it was the moment I had been working for my whole career."
That victory over BYU capped Tulane's only perfect season (12-0) and gave the school a No. 7 national ranking in the final polls.
On Saturday, Scelfo has a shot to get his 2001 season off to a resounding start, as well as spoil Crowton's first game in Provo.
NOTES: Tulane posted a 6-5 mark last year, including victories in its final three games . . . The Green Wave lost 12 starters to graduation and have 12 freshmen on their two-deep chart, including eight true freshmen . . . In the BCA Classic, Tulane makes its earliest start in school history (108 years of football) . . . Tulane allowed 436.7 total yards per game in 2000.