BYU quarterback John Beck is 126-for-176 for 1,560 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions this season.
Beck part of BYU's QB lore
Cougars assistant and Kahuku alumnus Anae appreciates the team's "crusty" senior
PROVO, Utah » He has more career yards passing than Steve Young or Robbie Bosco, and he's poised to pass Jim McMahon in the coming weeks.
Still, John Beck's national profile is much lower than the famed BYU quarterbacks who have come before him.
The senior has helped the Cougars get off to their best start in five years. At 4-2, it's modest compared to some of the past BYU teams, but after four years without a winning record, it's a huge step toward calling the Cougars a power again like they were in the days of Young, Bosco, McMahon and Ty Detmer.
"The whole national status, we can't even worry about it," Beck said. "If we win the Mountain West Conference and we do everything we can, we'll get recognition. People will know what we did."
The Cougars are averaging 33.5 points and 430 yards per game, much of it thanks to Beck. He has completed 69 percent of his throws (126 of 176) for 1,560 yards with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
For his career, Beck has thrown for 8,689 yards and needs 847 more to tie McMahon for second in BYU history. Detmer, the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, holds the school record with 15,031 passing yards.
Beck was ninth in school history before the season started and has already passed Young (7,733) and Bosco (8,400), the quarterback of the Cougars' 1984 national championship team.
"It was a big thing for me. Those were guys I always looked up to," Beck said. "I think there are two universities in the nation that are kind of considered the 'quarterback universities' and that's Miami and BYU."
Beck's 59 career touchdown passes put him two behind Marc Wilson for fifth in school history and seven behind Bosco and John Walsh, who are tied for third. McMahon has 84, second only to Detmer's 121.
"This place has been known for some pretty good quarterbacks. Seeing some of the tools that John Beck had, I got really excited about what we had to work with," said offensive coordinator Robert Anae, a Kahuku alumnus who was an offensive lineman for the Cougars in the early 1980s. "I can link him right up there with some of the best that have ever come through this place and I think his play on the field has shown that as well."
Beck is still nursing a sprained right ankle, which kept him from playing Sept. 23 against Utah State. His left ankle has also been banged up most of the season and he was slowed significantly in a win over Tulsa and the Cougars' overtime loss to Boston College on Sept. 16.
"It was like I was back there in cement," he said.
After taking the week off when the Cougars shut out Utah State 48-0, Beck was back for BYU's game at TCU on Sept. 28. Despite having both ankles taped so heavily he could barely move in the pocket, let alone try to scramble, Beck completed 23 of 37 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Cougars to a 34-17 win -- BYU's first against a ranked team since 1999.
"I think he performed like a champion from beginning to end," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "When your quarterback performs with poise, with confidence and with leadership and seems undeterred regardless of adversity it sets a nice tone for your entire team."
Beck was a little more mobile in BYU's 47-17 win over San Diego State on Oct. 7 and completed 16 of 21 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns. He was the Mountain West offensive player of the week for the second straight week.
BYU had last weekend off, allowing Beck and some of his injured teammates more time to heal before hosting UNLV on Saturday.
After the Rebels, the Cougars make back-to-back trips to Colorado for games at Air Force and Colorado State, then close the season against Wyoming, New Mexico and at Utah on Nov. 25.
If BYU runs through the conference unbeaten, it will have its first league championship since the Cougars went 7-0 in the Mountain West in 2001.
Beck was serving a two-year mission at the time and didn't join the team until 2003, when he was put in the starting lineup four games into the season.
Stanford spoiled Beck's first start, sacking him seven times. Beck started four games that year and finished with 864 yards passing, five touchdowns and five interceptions.
His ratio has improved a great deal with the experience. Beck has 59 career touchdown passes to 28 interceptions.
"I think a lot was put on the quarterback unduly and undeservingly," Anae said of Beck's freshman year. "I don't think it's right in any way to put the entire burden of your program on your quarterback. He felt the load of the program. You talk to him now, though, and he's a crusty senior."