The first five minutes' worth of questions Robbie Bosco confronted had little to do with him. Everyone kept asking whether he could run as fast as Steve Young or throw downfield as far as Marc Wilson, or had the savvy of Jim McMahon.
To play quarterback for Brigham Young University is to live through a career of comparisons. BYU is to the quarterback position what Southern Cal is to the tailback and Pitt is to the offensive lineman.
Gifford Nielsen begat Marc Wilson who begat Jim McMahon who begat Steve Young, who begat Bosco, a redshirt junior from Roseville, Calif., and the latest in the Cougars' quarterback lineage.
Before Saturday, not many people knew who Bosco was, or whether he was made of the stuff necessary to be -- not play -- quarterback at Brigham Young.
The test is cumulative, season long. But against third-ranked Pittsburgh in his first start, Bosco completed 25 of 43 passes for 325 yards. His final pass resulted in a 51-yard touchdown play with just more than a minute left to win the game for the unranked Cougars, 20-14.
Pitt free safety Bill Callahan, who was fooled on the game-winning touchdown pass, shook his head in wonderment afterward and said, "He's going to fall in line with all of the other great Brigham Young quarterbacks; I'd like to see him again."
To be sure, there is pressure on Bosco, not just from the expectations created with his performance against Pitt, but just from playing the position at Brigham Young.
Bosco is smart enough not to deny there is pressure, to acknowledge and deal with it. The last four BYU quarterbacks have been all-Americas. The most valuable player of the Western Athletic Conference the last eight years has been a quarterback from Brigham Young. Inescapable history.
"There is pressure," Bosco said. "I felt it early in the game. (He completed only one of his first five passes and, in general, looked nervous.) You always feel pressure because everybody makes such a big deal about the quarterback position.
"At first (Saturday), it was a little nerve-racking. My passes were floating all over . . . But I guess (the pressure) just comes with the quarterback position here."
Bosco, from all indications, has the tools to deal successfully with it. He is 6 feet 3, 188 pounds and throws accurate passes as hard as any coach would want.
Coach LaVell Edwards said, "He's got a very strong arm. He throws the most accurate deep pass of any of the quarterbacks we've had here. He's got good RPMs; the 17- and 18-yard out cuts, he throws that very well."
Bosco does have the habit of dropping his arm down and flinging sidearm. "It's basically a way of hurrying up my release, if the defense is putting on a lot of pressure," he said.
Edwards said, "He does have that habit. But we'll just remind him, 'Robbie, you're dropping down,' and he'll say, 'Okay,' and go back to throwing overhand. He's a very coachable player."
The biggest surprise concerning Bosco has been his ability to run. To compare, again, Bosco is not as fast as Young, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, but he gained 38 yards in 11 carries against Pitt, including one for 14 yards.
"We didn't realize he could run as well as he did," Pitt Coach Foge Fazio said.
Neither did Edwards: "He's a little bit better runner than I expected. Maybe he's a gamer in that way. He scrambled well, and found second and third receivers two or three times. I was really impressed."
If Bosco already has the arm and the feet to play the position in the Brigham Young system -- two of the things Edwards looks for when selecting a quarterback -- he gave indications Saturday of acquiring the third trait: poise.
"I look to see how a guy is going to handle having a bad throw, a bad series or a bad day," Edwards said.
After missing those four of his first five passes, Bosco completed 11 of his next 13. And after throwing two interceptions that directly and indirectly gave the Panthers their only touchdowns, Bosco recovered to lead one drive for a field goal, then recognize a safety cheat and pass for the winning touchdown.
Fazio said he had never seen a young quarterback recover from "two such big setbacks" as Bosco did.
Even Edwards, while determined to keep Bosco's one performance in perspective, said, "It's rare for a young quarterback to come back from two mistakes of that magnitude."
It comes as somewhat of a surprise to those not familiar with BYU football that Bosco was the most highly recruited of all the celebrated quarterbacks. The University of California and San Diego State wanted Bosco.
"I didn't even know much about Brigham Young until McMahon's junior year," Bosco said. "He's been a favorite of mine ever since. And Steve Young is a good friend."
Bosco, just like those who preceded him, attributes the success of BYU passing to Edwards and his system, not the quarterbacks; BYU has led the nation in passing six times and total offense three times.
"It really is the system," Bosco said. "The way things are set up, most of the time we have five receivers going out. Somebody has to be open. All the quarterback has to do is read."
Bosco was oversimplifying, probably. But BYU tackle Louis Wong said keeping things simple is one of the attributes that will help Bosco as he attempts to form his own identity, yet uphold the tradition of quarterbacks at Brigham Young.
"He doesn't compare himself to anyone," Wong said, "and I think right now that attitude will help him become outstanding."
Bosco, eventually, addressed the direct question, if he could compare himself to Nielsen, Wilson, McMahon and Young.
"I think we're all pretty different," Bosco said. "I don't know if there were many similarities. Well, I know of one. We're all great guys."