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Rice spoils Edwards' 67th birthday

Published: Sunday, Oct. 12 1997 12:00 a.m. MDT

Brigham Young University football coach LaVell Edwards celebrated his 67th birthday Saturday, starting with a private breakfast with former coaches - including ex-Houston coach Bill Yeoman - and an afternoon viewing of Air Force's 10-7 victory over Navy with some three-dozen Cougar boosters in a hotel sports bar, making it the day's driest spot in downpour-drenched Houston. It wouldn't be the only time Edwards would watch a successful option attack.

Come Saturday evening, 21st-ranked BYU watched a three-headed option monster - the Owl trio of Perry, Wood and Nelson, which sounds more like a Houston team of legal eagles - lead Rice to a 27-14 Western Athletic Conference victory at Rice Stadium.Talk about getting a birthday bashed.

"We were not in sync all night long on either side of the line," said Edwards, whose team not only falls to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the league but will take another tumble tonight when the Top-25 polls are announced. "I'm concerned about the rest of our sea-son."

Meanwhile, the Cougars' own three-headed monster - quarterbacks Kevin Feterik, Paul Shoemaker and Drew Miller, guiding a Y. passing offense that came into the game as the WAC's top aerial attack - came out with monstrous results. Make that nightmarish.

Feterik started and played well in the first half on a gimpy right ankle - injured last week against Utah State - but the sophomore southpaw couldn't manage much in two short-lived, ineffective cameo appearance in the second.

Shoemaker got a vote of confidence from coaches as he started the second half, but his only completion out of five attempts and three possessions in the second half was an up-for-grabs heave that went to Rice safety Cory Brabham.

And Miller, the heralded freshman, came in for one play late in the final period and promptly lost 12 yards while being sacked for a safety by Owl nose guard Judd Smith.

Feterik is ineffective on one wheel. Shoemaker seemed lost a week after his game-winning heroics against Utah State. And Miller - is he a temporary fix with a long-range future? "We are thinking seriously about using him, and we'll have to address that this coming week," said Edwards.

All told, BYU could muster only nine yards and 21 plays in seven second-half possessions - against a porous Rice defense that was affording opponents 434 yards and 32 points a game.

The Cougars couldn't capitalize on two fourth-quarter fumbles by Rice, a pair of PAT kicks and a missed field goal by the Owls and the fact that the day's downpour - which had turned Rice Stadium's artificial turf into a veritable Slip-And-Slide - had stopped by the second half.

Also halted was another reign - BYU's dominance in the WAC. "We need to regroup and get together," said Edwards. "Even if we win now, we have to wait. Rice is in the driver's seat."

Added cornerback Omarr Morgan: "Rice controls its own destiny. They took it to us."

Rice followers had entered the game with hopes of a strong showing against the defending WAC champs, who had manhandled the Owls 49-0 last year. A strong showing might impress officials from lower-tier bowls by the name of Independence (Shreveport, La.), Motor City (Detroit) and something called the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise.

Now, with a 2-1 league record (4-2 overall), a resounding victory over a Top 25 team and a front-runner's spot in the WAC Mountain Division standings, the Owls can be thinking of possibly qualifying for WAC-afforded bowls like the Holiday, Copper or Las Vegas.

How strong a showing did Rice want to make? Consider the Owls went for a first down on fourth-and-inches . . . in the first half . . . on their own 15 . . . with the lead.

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