1 of 2
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
BYU offensive coordinator Rober Anae.

They were born more than two decades apart. One is in the twilight of a storied career; the other guy is just starting to hang his hat on some big numbers and players.

But Norm Chow and Robert Anae are bark off the same tree.

Offensive coordinators R Us.

The master and the student meet in a surreal encounter on Saturday.

Some would argue Chow is the master, but calling Anae the student is way off base. Anae has the No. 3-ranked passing offense (412 ypg) and No. 1 receiver (Dennis Pitta) in the NCAA this week.

Chow is a hired gun, brought on board by UCLA's Rick Neuheisel to once again create a high-powered offense.

The two Hawaiian play-callers will be on center stage when UCLA's Chow returns to Provo, where he and BYU's Anae will kick off a game of chess going against opposing defenses.

Both grew up on Hawaii's island of Oahu. Chow attended the private Punahoe High in Honolulu, and Anae went to public school an hour away on the north shore at Kahuku.

Neither were quarterbacks. Chow was an offensive lineman at Utah. Anae played guard and center at BYU.

Both had key roles on BYU's early 1980s run of conference championships, bowl victories and a national championship in Provo. Their histories are intertwined; their backgrounds knotted together like rope. Both shared

time in the LaVell Edwards era that included four WAC titles and a 43-7 record from 1981 to 1984.

Both have strong personalities. Both are well-educated. In fact, both are doctors, as Chow has a Ph.D. in education and Anae has his doctorate in sociology. They are outspoken, sometimes even stubborn. They also can be a little shy, but a little behind-the-scenes kind of guys both are supremely confident, and friends say they are very focused in their approach to their jobs.

Anae has been criticized as a play-caller in Provo, but Chow was the ultimate target of many BYU fans throughout his career in Provo, where fans used him as a tethered goat because Edwards was off-limits, but Chow was fair game after losses.

Chow could tell Anae, "Heat, Robert? You've had a candle; I've felt fusion."

Cougar assistant head coach Lance Reynolds knows both men probably as well as anybody. He spent countless hours with Chow in the press box, sweating bullets and celebrating huge performances. He's dug in the trenches with Chow and in team meetings at BYU and has even been offered jobs by the longtime successful coach. Reynolds now has a similar role with Anae.

But it is Chow whom pundits from the NFL to college tag as a genius, the master. He is likely the highest-paid assistant coach in college football.

"Norm was a perfectionist," said Reynolds. "He understands the passing game and knows what he wants. He is very precise, very demanding, sharp and astute to what is going on.

He is surprisingly reasonable during games when you talk to him "As far as the passing game, he is as sharp a guy as there is anywhere. ... Being sharp and experienced is part of what makes him who he is. He was tutored very well in the beginning and then had access to a lot of knowledge along the way. He's been doing this for a very long time, so he is very good at what he does."

Like getting Bruin quarterback Kevin Craft to complete 80 percent of his second-half passes after throwing four interceptions early in a win over No. 18 Tennessee.

Chow was lucky enough to work alongside the late Doug Scovil, a mind that created BYU's offensive swagger in the late '70s. Every fall at BYU, after Chow was elevated from a graduate assistant to receivers coach and then offensive coordinator, he used to tell players: "We make difficult plays all the time and make impossible plays routine."

"Scovil was huge in this," Reynolds said. "Not so much the plays in and of themselves but the philosophy as to what you do."

Reynolds sees Anae in a similar cutout of Chow, "even if they are vastly different in personalities, they are similar in many ways."

Reynolds said, "Robert uses his staff well and is very organized and intelligent. The way he organizes practice results in the way we execute on the field. He keeps things the right size so we don't do too much, but we have enough. He is sharp, intelligent, controls the tempo of practice and is very demanding. He's a tough guy mentally."

That Chow and Anae grew up an hour from one another in Hawaii is more coincidental than anything related to race and their successes, said Reynolds. "Obviously, both are smart and are at different stages in their careers. But they are very effective and efficient in what they do."

Anae is entering his 14th year as a college coach. Chow is going on about 35 years.

BYU linebackers coach Barry Lamb has gone up against either Chow, Gary Crowton or Anae every day in practice during his 14 years at BYU. Some of those practice sessions get heated, and Lamb is an emotional guy.

Lamb does take Anae's back, if someone wants to paint him as a beginner in this play-calling business since he came to BYU from Texas Tech, where he coached the offensive line and tight ends.

"I wouldn't call coach Anae a novice," said Lamb. "I wouldn't do that. He's way, way too good to be in that category. As far as Norm is concerned, I don't think there is anybody better. I think Robert is every bit as good as him, look what he's done, but there is nobody better than Norm Chow."

Lamb remembers going against Chow as fun and challenging.

"You'd cover something, and then he'd so something completely different," Lamb said. "It was like playing chess. Obviously, he has a great gift, and he knows offensive and defensive football. His ability to adapt during a game is as good as anybody I've gone against."

By the same token, Lamb sees Anae as a gem in Provo.

"One of the things I've really, really appreciated about Robert is he's the guy in charge, but he takes input from everybody. I've caught many glimpses how he puts a game plan together, and everybody in that room is involved and has a say, and Robert listens to him.

"That's the sign of a mature, confident coach who has a lot of respect for the people around him, yet is confident that that doesn't threaten them."

Chow and Anae.

It's not a law firm.

E-mail: [email protected]