Sept. 9, 1999
PROVO, Utah - BYU center Jimmy Richards is the triggerman for the Cougars' offense.
Richards decides when to start a play by snapping the ball to quarterback Kevin Feterik, who stands in a shotgun formation on most plays. Feterik shows he's ready by pumping a foot.
Then it's up to Richards.
"I'm also supposed to survey the defense, call the blocking and watch the 25-second clock," Richards said. "It means more responsibility for me, but I'm all for anything to give us more room to work."
The Cougars tweaked their offense because coach LaVell Edwards felt it would give Feterik more time to make decisions.
The change also stems from the loss of Ronney Jenkins, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards last season, but enrolled at Northern Arizona after being expelled for his second violation of BYU's strict honor code.
Edwards wants the Cougars to air it out, just like they did during their pass-happy days of the 1980s. That's what Washington's new coach, Rick Neuheisel, is expecting in tonight's nationally televised game.
"This is an outfit that knows how to throw the ball," Neuheisel said. "I would say that it will look like a track meet on Thursday night if we're not ready."
Neuheisel spent four seasons at Colorado, but went to Seattle in January for $1 million a year.
As he did in Boulder, Neuheisel took over a nationally prominent program. This time, he is expected to revive a school that struggled to a 6-6 record in the last of Jim Lambright's six seasons.
"It's a shock to lose your coach, but we have a big personality in Rick Neuheisel," receiver Dane Looker said. "He's exciting and charismatic. He makes playing in this program an enjoyable experience."
No question, the Huskies are having fun. Neuheisel plays Bob Marley tunes for stretching before practice, and he awards popsicles or candy bars to the top performers.
Yet Neuheisel downplays his laid-back approach.
"We do have music on during stretching, but I think that if you've been in any weight room or Jazzercise class in the country, they have music on all the time," he said. "I don't think that's a big deal."
Instead Neuheisel talks about BYU, which has lost four straight to Washington. Last year, the Huskies won 20-10 in Seattle.
"We are very excited to be going into a nationally televised game of this magnitude," Neuheisel said. "We have a tall order in front of us."
Edwards said the Cougars have studied Colorado films from last season to prepare, but he's unsure how the schemes will look with different players executing them.
"We did get some access to Colorado film but Rick has different coordinators on both sides of the ball now," Edwards said. "I don't know if that will be a big advantage for us."
The Huskies are concerned about BYU linebacker Rob Morris, who returned for his senior season and was nominated for the Butkus Award that goes to the nation's top linebacker.
"I almost hate Washington more than I do Utah," Morris said, referring to BYU's instate rival. "It has kind of become a rivalry."
Besides a new system at BYU and a new coach for the Huskies, both teams literally have a new look.
The Cougars have new uniforms: dark blue replaced royal blue, and tan accents were added. The Huskies dumped the purple helmets of Lambright's era in favor of gold helmets worn for decades before.
By TIM KORTE
AP Sports Writer