Heaps shows true character after tough loss

He might only be a sophomore with just 13 Division I starts under his belt, but on Monday Cougar quarterback Jake Heaps held confident, positive and strong in the face of some difficult questions from the media. He made few excuses, and like a champ took full responsibility for the offensive performance last Saturday, even though the many offensive shortcomings weren't entirely his fault.

Cougar fans expected more in last Saturday's game, especially against a rival now playing for the Pac-12 conference, a conference that snubbed their collective noses at the storied Cougar program.

"When you look at the potential of our team, it's really frustrating to be where we're at right now," Jake Heaps said. "We have such great potential and we have such a great opportunity to have an explosive offense, and we just haven't shown that yet and it's really frustrating as the quarterback of this team to not put our guys in better situations."

BYU turned the ball over three times in the first quarter, but despite that, the Cougars were still beating Utah in just about every statistical category throughout the first half. With an inability to score after coming so close, the frustrations once again began to mount.

"The first half we came out and we performed really well," said Heaps. "I felt like if it wasn't for the turnovers, things would have been different. The first fumble we were down 7-0. Then on our second drive we drove down and we were on the 50-yard line and we were moving the ball at that point.

"Then we get all the way down to the blue zone and we fumbled it again. It was like, ‘Ah man, come on.' So there were opportunities there that were missed, but we're really looking forward to coming into this week, like we do every week, and start preparing for this game.

"You look at it and it's tough to have to go through turnovers like that, and to have your team come out and play the way that we did, especially in a big game like that."

While a young quarterback and offensive coordinator go through growing pains, the adversity the two face can potentially bring them together.

"Well, you hope so, "Heaps quickly said. "I mean, if it tears you apart, then it's going to be a long season. Me and Coach Doman had a long conversation and I think it's going to grow us closer. I mean, it's not just between me and Coach Doman, it's not just us. It's with our whole offense, our whole team. We gotta figure it out and put it all together and I believe with great confidence that we all will."

According to Heaps, he isn't the only one that's taking the Utah loss to heart.

"Well, Coach Doman's nature is to take everything on himself and to look at himself and say, ‘Gosh, what can I do to help these guys play better?'" Heaps said. "I mean, he prepared us well and he had a great game plan I felt like. The game just got out of hand really quickly."

As BYU faces lesser competition on its schedule – not to say that Central Florida's defense is a pushover, as the opposite is in fact the case –gauging how good BYU's offense truly is will become increasingly difficult.

"The tale will tell," Heaps said. "I mean, I can't really say anything about what you'll learn from us, we've done enough talking. It's time to show what we're capable of and what kind of football team we have. I think you look at certain halves and certain games and stuff like that against some great teams, you can tell what kind of team we are, but we just really haven't exploded all the way through a game yet. I'm really looking forward to seeing our team do that. We just have to really prepare hard this week."

While there is plenty of blame to go around for the dismal Cougar offensive performance, Heaps manned up and placed the entire offensive failure right at his own feet. He might be a sophomore in years, but on Monday he was a man who placed the burden of the program on his own young shoulders.

"As the quarterback of this team, all the blame needs to be put on my shoulders," Heaps said. "If it's not all on my shoulders, you guys are wrong. This is my responsibility to lead this team to victory, to perform in the big moments when our backs are against the wall."

Stern in his position and confident in his demeanor, Heaps never backed down. The young competitor looked out and made some bold claims to the media.

"That's something you can look for from me is to be more consistent in throwing the football and taking care of this football team," Heaps said. "I need to do that in order for this football team to improve, so I'm looking forward to going out there and playing another game. We have the potential to be great and that's what I'm going to hold on to and that's what our team will hold on to."

With a run game that doesn't complement or open up the passing attack, Heaps is placing a lot of potential unwarranted responsibility on his shoulders. Teams know BYU has a young quarterback at the helm – not many his age started under LaVell Edwards – and have stacked the box with no respect for the current run game.

"Well, you know, in all honesty it's tough," Heaps said about the lack of a running game. "Every offense relies on a running game. You know, a spread offense relies on a running game. To be able to have somewhat of that balance and somewhat of that threat for teams to look at, to stay honest … it really opens up passing lanes and keeps defenses off balance."

No longer does BYU have a viable running back (at least not right now) or a powerful fullback to run behind a powerful offensive line in a base run package that former offensive coordinator Robert Anae had the luxury of. The significance of the loss of fullback Iona Pritchard, whom Mendenhall compared to Manase Tonga, is becoming more and more evident.

BYU has to find a way to get the ball rolling in order to force defenses to be more honest.

"We have great running backs and a great offensive line," Heaps said. "There's really no reason why our running game shouldn't be happening. I think we're going to get things together, and hey, if it's not, then we have to make things happen through the air and that's the bottom line. I'm excited for this week of preparation and I'm excited to see where our team is at.

"If I had all the answers I think we would fix them already. I don't have all the answers, but I do know this: the running game does matter to these guys. It matters to our offense and it matters to our offensive line. It matters to myself and it mattes to our receivers.

"We have to have a great running game, at least well enough to take the pressure off of our passing game so they can't drop eight guys and have to respect the run, so we have to make sure that will be accomplished and I think it will be."

Central Florida is a team that was built upon a fast and tough defense. UCF's defense will pose another tough challenge for a Cougar offense looking to quickly get over the emotions of last Saturday, right the ship and prepare for a Friday game.

As of Monday morning, Heaps hadn't yet had an opportunity to look at film of UCF, but said he knew that "they're a fast team and a good, well-coached football team. They've had some success over the past year and this year."

Though Friday should be a big challenge, Heaps is anxious to play and prove he can lead this team to victory regardless of the past.

"At this point, I love playing a Friday game," Heaps said with a smile. "I want to play one day sooner. I wish we could play right now, to be honest with you. I want to go strap it on and go play right now, but we've got ‘til Friday to do that and we're going to prepare like crazy to do that."

UCF ranks first in C-USA in all five major defensive categories: rushing, passing, total defense, scoring defense and passing efficiency. UCF also ranks very high nationally in those categories.

UCF has allowed an average of just 93.67 passing yards per game.

In total defense, UCF ranks second in the nation, allowing just 166 total yards per game.

In passing efficiency defense, UCF ranks third nationally with its opponents averaging a 74.09 passer rating.

UCF also ranks 13th nationally in rushing defense, allowing an average of just 72.33 rushing yards per game. The Cougar offense better come ready given the fact the Cougars have a short week to prepare.

"It's tough but we're excited with the opportunity to come out and play another game, especially on a short week," Heaps said. "So we have to get over this a lot quicker, but the bottom line is we have to perform a lot better as an offense to win games.

"It's just we need to go out there and execute our offense, and that's something that we really have to change. It's not going to take anything extraordinary. We just have to work hard and we have to focus, and when it comes down to game time we just have to make plays when it counts."

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