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Monson: Are two quarterbacks really better than one?
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo

Jake Heaps took a postgame question about the BYU quarterback duel here and pretty much said it had turned into a quarterback dual. It's no longer a competition, he said, it's a partnership.

He even started cogitating in those terms, as though he and Riley Nelson, who did a rarely seen QB shuffle on Saturday in a 23-17 win against Washington, alternating on every series, had somehow shuffled themselves into one deck, melded themselves into one mind, shunning selfishness.

"All Riley and I want to do is ..."

"I'm not worried about [the starting position] ..."

"This is about what's best for the team ..."

"There are a lot of people that would doubt it would work, but I just can't say enough about Riley ..."

Said Nelson: "We're friends."

Together forever.

Or at least until next week at Air Force.

According to Bronco Mendenhall, it could go longer this way ... much longer. Like, all season.

"I don't think it will be exclusively one or the other," he said. "It may shift."

LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday was a place and time, then, for quarterbacks and contrasts and conglomerating.

For former greats and current partners and part-timers.

What made the gathering of eight dormant All-American BYU QBs so compelling, brought together for the start of a scholarship fund, were the differences as much as the similarities between each of them — from Giff Nielsen to Jim McMahon to Steve Young to Steve Sarkisian — and the active quarterbacks now doing their work on the field.

It's hard to imagine Robbie Bosco and Ty Detmer doing what Nelson and Heaps did in beating the Huskies — share their time, share their job, share their ownership of their team, share their wins.

Taking turns isn't what All-Americans do, especially once they get their seat behind the wheel. There's too much alpha dog in them.

Mendenhall said before the opener that junior Nelson and freshman Heaps would both play. What he did not say was that they would quite literally be traded from series to series like commodities.

Each had his share of success.

The stat sheet was nearly identical: Nelson completed 11 of 17 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Heaps was 13-for-23 for 131 yards.

Their ways and means of putting up those numbers were diverse, indeed, with Nelson moving around in the backfield, using his feet and his toughness. Heaps looked much more the traditional BYU passer, showing touch on his throws and zip, too.

The tag-team plan worked, thanks in no small part to a Cougar defense that shut down the Huskies when it was required.

But it was just as easy to say the Cougars won in spite of their two-scoop quarterback approach as much as because of it. As interesting as it was to see the unique usage, to see opportunity given to completely different guys, it also seemed as though both quarterbacks were being cheated by not being allowed to sail the ship full time.

Almost everybody afterward sang the praises of the arrangement.

Easier to do in victory's glow.

"Both quarterbacks played to their strengths," Mendenhall said.

It worked for one night.

But sometime this season, the 50-50 quarterback split will hurt the Cougars. Mark the words. It will backfire, sooner or later. That's why coaches don't swap out their quarterbacks like Goodyears on their cars.

"We're not out of the woods," Mendenhall admitted. "There's going to be some adversity."

BYU won on Saturday. Bronco won on Saturday. But the questions are far from completely answered. Instead, they will fester. And if the Cougars see some measure of success under Nelson and Heaps this season, will it continue through the end of Nelson's career at BYU next season?

McMahon and Young couldn't fathom such a predicament, neither could Detmer and Bosco.

That's not selfish. It's hunger for leading, need for being the man, all the time, greed for winning.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com

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