First Game a Memorable One

Sixteen Cougars saw action for the first time in their BYU careers in front of 63,771 screaming fans. The 23-17 Cougar victory in front of a 19th straight sellout crowd at LaVell Edwards Stadium was an experience that they will remember for a long time.

There were a lot of nerves to go around last Saturday. Butterflies and jitters were aplenty among the core of BYU's offense, which was comprised of players both young and unproven. Running out of the tunnel on a day in which BYU honored past All-American quarterbacks was an exciting experience for the youngsters.

"You know, before the game I actually felt pretty good," recalled true freshman quarterback Jake Heaps. "Actually, when I was running through the tunnel is kind of when it got to me just how all the excitement came rushing through - you know, 65,000 screaming fans - and it was so much fun and it was a memory that I'll always carry with me."

True freshman tight end Austin Holt and Marcus Mathews echoed Heaps' sentiments.

"You know, I was excited running out of the tunnel in front of 65,000 screaming fans," said Holt. "I've never played in front of that many people before. It was an incredible experience."

"Oh man, running out of that tunnel for the first time was really cool," said Mathews. "Running out there with all the tight ends for our first game was amazing because it was our first game. When one of us would come out the next guy would yell, 'Okay man, it's your turn, now go!' It was just an incredible experience for all of us. With that first game out of our way, I think I've lost a lot of my nerves. Going into this next game against Air Force, I won't be as nervous as I was going into Washington. It was a lot of fun though."

Standing on the sideline, Heaps watched as junior quarterback Riley Nelson took the first series of the game. Soon, it was his turn to get out onto the field.

"You know, as I was jogging on I was just making sure that I was being smart with the football," Heaps said. "Unfortunately my first throw wasn't exactly the smartest throw. It was just making sure I was efficient, making sure I wasn't making any mistakes - you know, not going in there worrying but just going out there and going through my protocol and all that kind of stuff. Walking off the field, it was fun. You know, it was three-and-out but it was just like, 'This is college football.'"

Finally getting out onto the field was a good experience for Heaps.

"You know, I thought it was just one of those opportunities for me to get out on the field and let all the butterflies out and just go out there and play. It was a fun game and it was a great game. Our guys battled and it's awesome having your line being one of the best lines in the country. That makes things a lot of fun. I think I only got touched twice in the game, and that makes things easy."

Heaps would end the night completing 13-of-23 for 131 yards in his debut performance. One of those passes was to Mathews, and was his first college reception.

"You could see my smile past my mouthpiece," said Mathews of the moment after making his first college catch. "I was pumped and didn't know what to do. I was flexing my arms. I wanted to keep the ball and I was just so pumped."

Though he got out onto the field on Saturday, it wasn't long ago that Holt was serving a mission in Missouri.

"It was a little different for me because I have been home around two months and three days from the time of the game," said Holt. "It's been two years since I've played football, but it was good. I'm glad we got to receive the ball to start the game because I was out there on the kickoff return team, so I got all the edges out on my first block and that really helped me. It was good."

Another freshman tight end, Richard Wilson, suffered from pregame jitters.

"I was sick before the game," said Wilson said with a laugh in his voice. "I threw up before the game, I was so nervous. I haven't played in a game for a while, so my nerves were really up there and going, but after I got that first rep in and got going I started to settle down and felt more comfortable as the game went on."

"I was nervous and tried to take my mind off things, but what really helped me was knowing that Richard already threw up," said Mathews with a laugh. "I told myself, 'Okay man, you have to stay calm because we can't have more than one guy throw up from our position group.' I just ended up trying to focus on my assignments and making the catch and right reads and assignments. I just tried to keep my mind thinking positive."

Wilson caught three passes for 45 yards, but if it weren't for a dropped pass in the end zone, he would have had a touchdown in his Cougar debut.

"Oh man, I kind of let that one get away from me a little bit," Wilson said with a smile. "I did come back and I had some plays that I made up for it a little bit. I was able to catch some balls from both Jake and Riley, and they're two great quarterbacks.

"That first game was definitely a good experience for all of us. None of us have played before, so that was our first time ever being out there in a college game. I think next week you're going to see us a little more comfortable. As the season wears on, you're going to see all of us become more confident within the offense, and we'll build more chemistry with the quarterbacks. We'll just get things more and more fine-tuned as the season wears on. It's going to be a fun year."

"Last Saturday we had four of us rotating out there playing," said Holt. "We watched the film with Coach Anae and he graded us. He graded us pretty hard too. I think the best part about it is he can rotate us in different ways. He has four of us that can all do different things and we can be used differently in different situations. It's all uphill for all of us and I definitely can't wait to play Air Force."

The Washington game must seem like a blur now that it's all over. Having thrown his first of many passes, Heaps reflected on the whole experience.

"That whole game was a whirlwind and it was so much fun," Heaps said. "There were a lot of throws that I was excited about that I made that were just kind of real confidence boosters for me that just said, 'Hey, I can play this game,' that ‘it's not a big deal, I'm here to play.' There's obviously some decision that I wish I could have back, but it was the first game and you get the jitters out and get going. I'm just excited to play Air Force."

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