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Offensive innovators meet today


© St. Petersburg Times, published August 26, 2000

Footballs will fill the air tonight at Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium, with two of the game's most prolific passing teams battling in the Pigskin Classic: Florida State and Brigham Young.

FSU coach Bobby Bowden's fondness for the forward pass is well-chronicled. He built his program with imaginative offense, and the Seminoles have been one of the top scoring teams in the country for years.

But BYU coach LaVell Edwards was doing it first. When Edwards took over at the Provo, Utah, school in 1972, the Cougars had never been to a bowl game. It was a time when the wishbone and option offenses ruled the game, at least at the most successful programs.

College football has changed, and Edwards helped lead the way. High-powered offenses with multiple formations, three- and four-receiver sets and lots of passing are the rage. Edwards, who begins his 29th and final season tonight, had a role in it all.

High-scoring offenses and quarterbacks with gaudy statistics will be his BYU legacy, along with winning.

Think of the quarterbacks who went through his program and remember the staggering numbers they posted: Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco, Ty Detmer.

Other than Young and McMahon, none had great professional success. That says even more about Edwards, who developed them in a system that almost never has failed.

Bosco led the Cougars to a 13-0 season and Edwards' lone national championship in 1984. BYU went 102-27 in the 1980s, the third-best record in the nation and Edwards' most successful decade. His team won or shared 18 Western Athletic Conference titles, winning 10 in a row from 1976-85.

Detmer won the Heisman Trophy in 1990, but since he left after the '91 season, the run of quarterbacks has not been as great. And there have not been as many high rankings. BYU concluded the 1996 season 14-1 and ranked fifth. There has been just one other Top-25 finish in the last decade.

Still, Edwards has taken his school to 22 bowl games. He enters his last season with a 251-95-3 record, which is all the more impressive considering his school's record before he arrived: 170-231-22.

Now, nearing age 70, he is ready to move on.

"Last winter, I made the decision to coach for only one more season," Edwards said. "I have been wrestling with the timing of announcing that decision. After seeing the outstanding attitude and work ethic of this team, I came to the conclusion that it's best to get the announcement out of the way now so we can focus on the season and avoid the repeated distractions that come from questions about my retirement."

DOWN, BUT NOT OUT: Notre Dame is not ranked in the AP preseason Top 25 for the first time since 1986, and the Irish have a difficult schedule. But fans will still be there to support them. All six home games are sold out, extending the school's streak to 155 games. And the 47,865 requests for tickets for the Sept. 9 Nebraska game was the second-highest in school history, surpassed only by the 57,000-plus for the 1997 Southern Cal game. Nebraska is receiving just 4,000 tickets, and the Cornhuskers had more than 28,000 requests.

AROUND THE NATION: Roy Kidd of I-AA Eastern Kentucky needs seven victories to become the eighth coach to reach 300 for a career. ... The season begins with Marshall holding the longest winning streak in Division I-A at 18 games. South Carolina has the longest losing streak at 21. Florida State has won 21 consecutive regular-season games, its only defeat during that stretch coming against Tennessee in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. ... Michigan and Tennessee led the nation in attendance over the past four seasons, with the Wolverines averaging 108,630 per game at Michigan Stadium and the Vols averaging 106,427 at Neyland Stadium. They are the only schools that averaged more than 100,000 per game.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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