By Nate Slack
After a 47-0 victory over Hawai’i, this year’s edition of the quarterback controversy has only grown. After Nelson’s poor performances at Utah and Boise State, people began to jump off the Riley bandwagon. They instantly put all of their faith into a 22 year-old true freshman who had completed 2 of 4 passes on the season heading into Boise, and who had passed for a whopping 36 yards combined in 3 games. After passing for 112 yards and running for nearly 150 this past Saturday, Cougar fans may have found the new “Riley Nelson” for the 2012 season.
Riley Nelson took over in 2011 as a sluggish Jake Heaps struggled to get the offense moving during his first 3 and a half games of the season. Nelson marched the offense down the field 96 yards in a 2 minute drill to beat his old school Utah State, which essentially became the defining moment of Nelson’s time at BYU. Fast forward a year, and we’re in the middle of a new quarterback dilemma all over again. Quite possibly the weirdest part about it this year is how similar Taysom’s final drive vs Boise State was compared to Riley’s vs Utah State, and the how he was brought in. This time around there are many more questions coming into play. Does Lark deserve a chance? What about Munns? Will Nelson be able to return from his back injury? There’s always the saying “Only time will tell” but if you ask me, it seems silly to even consider starting Riley over Taysom at this point as long as his health is in jeopardy.
Perhaps the biggest visible improvement from the Boise State game to the Hawai’i game was the offensive line. Granted, it was against Hawai’i, but holes were open, sacks were limited, and most importantly– the only turnover was on an under-thrown pass. Famika Anae moved to left guard and caught the attention of many people, while Braden Hansen, who was moved to center , was noticed because of occasional low snaps. Tight End Devin Mahina finally got into the end zone after it seems like he’d been taken down at the 1 yard line every time he touched the ball. The running game improved enough to supply not one, but two 100-yard rushers for the first time since Juice did it in 2010, including a quarterback who passed for over 100 yards also.
It was nice to see the team show they could bounce back after 2 difficult weeks. BYU could’ve been in a position to make a BCS bowl, be ranked in the top-15, and looking to be bowl eligible this weekend against the improved Utah State Aggies if as few as 2 plays had ended differently. Instead, BYU (3-2) will head into LaVell Edwards Stadium Friday night with a motive to prove they can beat good teams and win on a big stage. Expect Taysom Hill to get his 2nd consecutive start despite Bronco’s love affair for Riley and for the changes made to the offensive line last week to remain. Kickoff is at 8:15 MT and the game will be shown on ESPN.