Commentary: BYU's win over Houston reminder of the good old WAC days
Eric Christian Smith, AP
There was something nostalgic about BYU's wild 47-46 win over Houston on Saturday.
Certainly, that Cougar vs. Cougar fight didn't bring any memories of last season, particularly BYU's 7-6 loss to Boise State or its 6-3 win over Utah State. No, Saturday's shootout harkened back to a much more exciting era in BYU history: the Wild West days in the Western Athletic Conference, when BYU's high-flying offense ruled the land.
Legendary coach LaVell Edwards came to Provo in the early ’70s and revolutionized the passing game. The offense flourished as Edwards' quarterback factory produced All-Americans like Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco and even a Heisman Trophy winner named Ty Detmer.
With that offense, BYU ruled the WAC with an iron fist. Edwards won 18 conference titles between 1972 and 1998. The Cougars even rose to the top and won a national championship in 1984.
In those days, it wasn't unusual to see the kind of barn-burner we witnessed last week. Who could forget McMahon fueling BYU to an amazing 46-45 come-from-behind win over SMU in the 1980 Holiday Bowl?
Or how about BYU's 41-38 win over Wyoming in 1984? That game could have derailed the Cougars' national championship hopes had the Cowboys scored just one more touchdown.
To many BYU fans, these were the "good old days."
There's been a few games that had that old WAC feel while BYU was a member of the MWC. Take the Cougars' 51-50 overtime loss to TCU in 2005, or its 45-42 win over Colorado State in 2008. But BYU hasn't played a game like that since it went independent.
It certainly looked very much alive against the Cougars in scarlet.
When was the last time we saw a BYU quarterback rack up 545 yards of total offense? While Taysom Hill and the BYU offense was far from flawless, 681 yards and 47 points against an undefeated 5-0 team is no small feat.
Particularly when you consider how often the Cougars shot themselves in the foot. BYU was penalized 14 times for 125 yards. Houston sacked Hill eight times, including one in the end zone for a safety. Hill also threw three interceptions.
Despite all of those miscues, the Cougars won a barn-burner for the first time since their three-point thriller over the Rams on Nov. 1, 2008.
Anyone calling for Hill's head now?
Yes, it would have been nice if Hill and the Cougar offense had things together in earlier games against Virginia and arch-rival Utah. But remember, returned offensive coordinator Robert Anae had the new "go fast, go hard" offense to install. Furthermore, Hill wasn't 100 percent during the offseason as he recovered from knee surgery.
All of that is water under the bridge.
Hill and the revamped Cougar offense will have plenty of opportunities to continue to prove themselves against the likes of Boise State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame. There's still plenty to work on, particularly on the offensive line, but there's also plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
Currently, BYU is No. 14 in total offense. The Cougars have some work to do in turning those yards into points, but clearly this isn't the same sluggish offense we saw last season.
For the first time in what has seemed like an eternity, it looks the like the "good old days" of the high-powered BYU offense may be back again.
Lafe Peavler is a sports writer intern at the Deseret News.
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