BYU's Jake Heaps: Win over hometown Huskies 'sweet'
Freshman quarterback from Skyline High School alternates with Riley Nelson and carries on a rich tradition of Brigham Young quarterbacks.
Seattle Times staff columnist
PROVO, Utah — After the intense recruiting war, after the enormous loads of grief he took from bloggers for choosing Brigham Young over his hometown Huskies, after the scrutiny of spring practice and the quarterback controversy in the fall, Jake Heaps finally played his first game for BYU.
He beat the Huskies and, for a night at least, silenced the growls of angry Washington fans.
"Are you kidding me? Of course this is sweet," Heaps said in the interview room Saturday night after BYU's 23-17 win over Washington. "It was an amazing opportunity, but at the end of the day, I was working my butt off trying to help my teammates out.
"Yeah, we were playing my hometown team and the school I always dreamed of going to, but I had to put that behind me and go out there and treat this like a regular game. I definitely didn't want to let all our guys down.
"Yeah, there were first-game jitters, but I got them out in the first series. After that I felt pretty calm and really poised."
In the end, there really isn't a quarterback controversy at BYU. There is what Heaps calls a quarterback partnership.
In this season's opener, true freshman Heaps and junior Riley Nelson alternated series. Their performances were so close that each finished the game with 131 passing yards. Nelson, who is the better runner, also gained 45 rushing yards. He passed for two touchdowns.
Heaps, who wasn't told about the alternating quarterback plan until earlier Saturday, was 13-for-23 passing and had at least three passes dropped. Neither quarterback had a turnover.
"I don't think there could be more support between me and Riley," said Heaps, who led Skyline High School in Sammamish to three consecutive Washington state championships. "There are a lot of people who would doubt that. 'How is that going to work? How is that going to happen?' "
When Nelson dragged two Huskies into the end zone on a two-point conversion that gave BYU a 13-7 second-quarter lead, Heaps was the first player to greet him on the sideline.
"If you're worried about how many series you're getting, instead of worrying about taking advantage of the opportunities you have, then that's when it gets hard," Heaps said. "When you have two selfish people, then that's a problem. I think Riley's done a great job with this. And I feel like I'm comfortable with it, and our whole team's rallied around both of us."
Adding to the pressure of his first college game, Heaps played in front of a sellout crowd that included former BYU quarterbacking legends Steve Young, Jim McMahon and, across the field, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian.
Some of them spoke to the team at meetings this week.
"Those guys were one of the main reasons I came here," Heaps said. "The coaches always tell us we stand on the shoulders of giants. And to be able to meet those guys was an unbelievable experience."
As Heaps put it, he and Riley want to go out and "carry on the tradition" of BYU quarterbacks.
So far, so good.
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