PROVO, Utah—BYU is honoring some of its former great quarterbacks this weekend as the Cougars host Washington in the season opener.
One of them will be busy coaching the opponent.
Former Cougar Steve Sarkisian is entering his second season as Washington's coach. He's one of eight BYU quarterbacks selected to all-America teams that will be honored at halftime Saturday.
While the seven others will have a chance to be nostalgic, Sarkisian said his duties as head Husky outrank any loyalty to his alma mater.
"It's a business trip, for sure. I had some great moments there, some great wins there," Sarkisian said. "But ultimately, my concern is about these 105 kids that we have in this program and the 76 of them traveling with us to Provo. This is their weekend. This is their day, and so that'll be my focus."
BYU's quarterback weekend is also a fundraiser to endow scholarships. Former Cougars Virgil Carter, Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco, Ty Detmer and Sarkisian are all scheduled to take part. These are the players who established BYU's quarterback tradition and they will be there to see the next two candidates.
Instead of one starter, coach Bronco Mendenhall announced this week that junior Riley Nelson and freshman Jake Heaps will be sharing the job.
Nelson backed up Max Hall last season and played eight games as a freshman at Utah State in 2006 before leaving on a Mormon church mission, then transferring to BYU.
Heaps' only experience so far is fall camp and spring practice, which he took part in after enrolling early after choosing BYU over his home-state Huskies. He was Washington state's AP player of the year last fall at Skyline High School in suburban Seattle, passing for 3,191 yards and 45 touchdowns.
Heaps is a drop-back passer who fits the classic style of a BYU quarterback. Nelson is a bit more of a mix who is capable of running the ball.
Mendenhall said both played well enough during the first month of practice to make using a two-QB system the Cougars' best option this season.
Mendenhall said he didn't ask for feedback after making the decision.
"When I announced it there were a lot of nodding heads. Kind of the quiet support and those that have made a comment say it was the right decision and they're behind it 100 percent, which is the easy thing to say now," Mendenhall said. "For fans, for media and for everyone else, if it doesn't go well that'll be when the tough part comes."
The Huskies have no such questions at quarterback. The job still belongs to Jake Locker, who returned for his senior season rather than going to the NFL after passing for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns last fall. The first game of his unofficial Heisman Trophy campaign comes with a chance to avenge Washington's heartbreaking loss to the Cougars two years ago.
Locker's second rushing touchdown of the game put the Huskies just an extra-point kick away from tying the game with 2 seconds left, but after tumbling into the end zone, he threw his hands - and the ball - in the air and was called for excessive celebration.
The penalty pushed back the extra-point kick, which was blocked by BYU's Jan Jorgensen to preserve the Cougars' 28-27 victory. The penalty call was widely viewed as much more excessive than Locker's celebration and may have cost the Huskies a chance to take BYU to overtime.
"I think looking back on it I told them after the game I'm sorry that we were put in that situation and we lost the game because of it but I'm not sorry for what I did because I was enjoying the game, I was having fun. I wasn't trying to embarrass BYU at that point," Locker said. "I had scored a touchdown that had the potential to tie the game with no time left on the clock and to me that's pretty exciting."
And his plans for any post-TD revelry this week?
"I'll take the ball to the referee this Saturday for sure," he said.