Provo • Long after most of his teammates have headed off to the showers, Jake Heaps finally makes his way across BYU's practice field, chatting with quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman and a couple of receivers who will also be the last players to leave the complex on this day.
Heaps, the Cougars' freshman quarterback, is obviously trying to make up for lost time after splitting reps with now-injured Riley Nelson all of fall camp and the first three weeks of the season. He's trying to squeeze in every minute of preparation time possible before BYU plays host to San Diego State on Saturday (4 p.m., The Mtn.) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"I'm just trying to develop as fast as I can," he said. "I can't waste a single minute."
That urgency is important after Heaps' first two college football starts, losses to Nevada and Utah State, resulted in 1-4 BYU having its worst record to start a season since 1973. And Heaps is the first to admit he didn't play well in either game, throwing two interceptions (both against USU) without any touchdown passes. He was a combined 51-for-100 for 499 yards. In fairness, BYU's receivers, tight ends and running backs haven't helped the freshman much, dropping at least 18 passes in those two games, including 12 against USU that they at least had their hands on.
Heaps has now lost as many games as a starting QB in college as he did while compiling a 40-2 record as a prep quarterback at Washington's Skyline High. He talks as if he's completely unfazed by the lack of success.
"No, it is not harder than I thought it would be," he said. "It is exactly what I thought. It has been a lot of fun and I am having a blast, being out there. It is a learning experience. I didn't think I was going to go out there and complete 100 percent of my passes, and throw for five touchdowns every game."
Then again, few people believed the Cougars would be on their longest losing skid since 1993. But they are, and the uphill climb looks even more daunting this week, considering Heaps will be facing SDSU defensive coordinator Rocky Long's 3-3-5 defense that has had two weeks to prepare.
"I feel really, really good. I feel comfortable, I feel confident," he said. "Obviously there are some things that we wish we could do as a team differently. We wish we could have those two games back. I really feel like we could have easily won those two games, and it is unfortunate, the way they ended up turning out."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said he met with Heaps on Monday and went away from the talk satisfied that the freshman's mental focus is where it needs to be. The head coach is spending all of practice with the defense this week, though, having fired Jaime Hill and appointed himself defensive coordinator.
"I watch him closer than what people think," Mendenhall said. "But the idea is I really don't intervene unless I sense something isn't quite right. I think he is doing really well."
Doman, however, is rarely more than a few feet away from Heaps during practice. The former BYU quarterback said they've returned to working on fundamentals this week.
"I think Jake has to continue to gain momentum and trust. Most importantly for him, it is timing, decision-making, and accuracy. And that's how we build confidence with him," Doman said. "We are not hitting on all cylinders with timing. We are cleaning that up. He is getting dramatically better with his footwork, and then just his overall decision-making … once he gets all that put together, he's is going to be a really talented quarterback."
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Heaps as a starter
Date Opp Comp-Att Yds INTs TDs
Sept. 25 Nevada 24-45 229 0 0
Oct. 1 Utah State 27-55 270 2 0
San Diego State at BYU
P Saturday, 4 p.m.
TV • The Mtn.