When San Francisco's Jerry Rice caught his landmark 100th pass of the season Sunday, it was BYU's Steve Young who threw it, along with seven other passes to Rice in the second half to help the 49ers pull out a last-minute win over Minnesota.
And when Idaho's John Friesz, who owns most of the Big Sky Conference quarterbacking records that Weber State's Jamie Martin is chasing, threw his first NFL touchdown pass Sunday, for the San Diego Chargers against the AFC-West champion Los Angeles Raiders, it was former Ute H-back Craig McEwen who caught it.It's the second time in two weeks McEwen's caught a scoring pass; the other was from Charger regular Billy Joe Toliver Dec. 16.
Friesz, the rookie who'd never taken an NFL snap until Sunday, was named the starter for that game ahead of time, causing some to be angry since the game meant something to the Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, who were still vying for the division title.
Friesz acquitted himself fairly well against the Raiders, throwing 11-for-22 for 98 yards, one interception and McEwen's TD of 7 yards with 1:55 left in the first half. That gave the Chargers a 9-7 lead over the Raiders, who went on to win 17-12. McEwen caught one other pass good for 4 yards.
In San Francisco, columnists worried last week about the 49ers' future should Joe Montana retire because Young didn't win against the Saints.
Today, those same people seem a lot happier. Montana played Sunday's first half against Minnesota, as planned by the coaching staff, and he left the game behind 10-0. Young played the second half and directed two drives resulting in field goals, then threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, one with :29 left to John Taylor, for a 20-17 win.
Young threw Rice's 100th reception with two minutes left as part of the winning drive. It went for 11 yards and made Rice only the fourth NFL player to catch 100 passes in a season.
"We knew how many he needed," Young told Knight-Ridder Newspapers. "After the touchdown (to Rice, his 99th reception), I turned to Jerry and said, `Did you get your two?' because I wasn't sure."
Going to Rice was both important to his teammates - Rice said he didn't care about the number - and to winning the game. Offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, after a slow first half, decided, "Let's go with our best guys and see what happens, get the ball to Jerry and see what happens."
Young credited the 49ers' famed two-minute offense for the final drive. "When George (Coach Seifert) turned to me (with 3:14 left) and said, `Two minute,"' said Young, "it was a very comfortable thing. There's a certain confidence to it all."
After all, he's watched Montana do it for a couple of years now. "If they're going to make me watch, I'm definitely going to learn something," Young said. "This is a much better way to go into the playoffs," he added, "with that strong feeling of 49er football."
When Weber State's Roger Ruzek missed an extra point Sunday, it was only his third miss in 47 attempts for Philadelphia this season. He made the next one. He also made a 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to put the Eagles up 23-7, and they hung on 23-21 over Phoenix. Backup QB Jim McMahon directed that last scoring drive for the Eagles with key passes of 21 and 12 yards; he was 5-for-8 for 55 yards passing.
Defensive notables from the weekend: USU's Greg Kragen had four tackles and an assist for the Broncos in their 22-13 win over Green Bay, Leon White (BYU) had four tackles for Cincinnati in the Bengals' 21-14 win over Cleveland, Darryl Pollard (Weber) had four tackles for San Francisco and Kurt Gouveia (BYU) had four tackles for Washington in the Redskins' 29-14 win over Buffalo. For Dallas, Manny Hendrix (Utah) had three tackles in the 26-7 loss to Atlanta.
Every time an NFL coach is rumored in trouble, former 49er Coach Bill Walsh's name is mentioned as a possible successor. He's now a color analyst for NBC-TV. One national television writer speculates this could be good for ex-Raider, ex-BYU player Todd Christensen. "It appears that NBC Sports is already looking to groom a successor to Walsh," said the writer. "In recent weeks, Paul Maguire and Todd Christensen have made appearances on the `NFL Live' pregame show. This is one way of giving these two analysts - who are mostly seen on a regional basis - national exposure."