In Saturday’s 17-16 loss to the Utah Utes, true freshman quarterback Jake Heaps looked like a grizzled veteran, leading the Cougars down the field on the final drive—only to have his coach go conservative and settle for a 43-yard field goal attempt with seconds left.
It was blocked.
The question has been asked why BYU quarterback Jake Heaps was not allowed to finish that drive.
Why did BYU run three straight plays into the teeth of the Utah defense instead of throwing a play action pass against a squad that was selling out to stop the run?
The answer is that the BYU offensive brain trust just didn’t trust the true freshman to deliver. It’s been a problem since the beginning of the year.
Going back to when the kid showed up on campus, the coaches were not able to bring themselves to believe what they had in Heaps. Jake was an unusual talent and more prepared to play at the college level right out of high school than any quarterback the coaches had ever seen. They admitted so publicly.
But they were afraid to turn over the vaunted BYU offense to a true freshman. They were afraid he might lose his confidence if he went out and initially struggled on the field. They were afraid they might screw him up.
The truth is that they should have believed in him from the very beginning.
Instead, a plan was hatched to have him split time with junior Riley Nelson. It was a bizarre approach that saw the two quarterbacks switch series the first three games of the year.
The result was that neither quarterback received the prep time needed to be properly prepared for games. Neither quarterback was able to really develop rhythm and continuity with the rest of the offense or get into the flow of a game. The Cougar offense struggled mightily during a 1-4 start to the season.
When Heaps was finally given the starting job full-time after Nelson was knocked out for the season, he was far less prepared to take over than he would have been had he just been trusted clear back in March and April. Bronco Mendenhall would finally acknowledge that the two quarterback approach had been a major reason why the BYU offense struggled over the first eight games of the season.
Even after taking over the controls of the Cougar offense, the over-protective approach handcuffed Heaps. He was rarely allowed to throw the deep routes, one of his strengths as a quarterback. The way he was handled did more to hurt his confidence than anything he faced on the field.
It wasn’t until the ninth game of the season, against UNLV following a bye week, that the game plan was adjusted to take advantage of Jake’s talents, thereby allowing him to begin to show what he could do on the field.
On Saturday, instead of trusting their true freshman quarterback to finish the job, BYU put their trust in another true freshman, Devin Mahina, to block two defenders on the edge on the fated field goal attempt.
The Utah game was a microcosm of sorts of the 2010 season. BYU just could not bring themselves to think that a child could lead them.
With a few weeks of practice time upcoming in preparation for a bowl game, the time is well overdue to completely trust the freshman. It’s time to get rid of the kid gloves and free Jake Heaps.