He wasn't sporting a missionary suit and tie or Utah State gear, and he didn't throw with his left hand in Thursday's 3A semifinal at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Aside from those minor details not to mention about an extra half-foot in height Logan quarterback Jeff Manning did his best Riley Nelson impersonation in his team's 48-24 blowout victory over Wasatch.
Reminiscent of Logan's former Mr. Football award-winner, Manning threw five touchdown passes and was an effective playmaking general while leading the Grizzlies into the 3A championship game.
"This is a dream. I love Utah football," said Manning of playing so well on the Utes' home field. "This has been a dream since I was a kid."
It's the second finals trip in three years for the Grizzlies, who claimed the 3A crown with Nelson behind center in 2005. Since then, Nelson played his way into the starting position with the Aggies as a true freshman before leaving on an LDS mission.
Logan coach Mike Favero said playing in the footsteps of Logan High quarterback greats like Nelson, Ben Macey and Ryan Bohm proved to "inspire" Manning. Working his tail off in practice and playing through an injured hand he bruised against Delta in the quarterfinals also helped.
"Jeff prepared very hard for this game," Favero said, "and as a result, he played outstanding."10 comments on this story
After fortune smiled upon the top-ranked Grizzlies in their first two nail-biter playoff wins, Manning and crew made sure no miracles were necessary against the Wasps. The 6-foot-4 gunslinger was crisp and accurate in this surprising semifinal blowout. He had 229 yards on 15-of-27 passing and rushed for 32 net yards.
Manning had three touchdowns in the first half to Logan Brown, Jeff Watts and Mike Hlavaty as the Grizzlies built a 20-10 lead. He then connected with Hlavaty and Will Thornley in the third quarter as they blew the game open, 34-10.
"It was about time we came out and played the kind of offense we know we can play," Manning said. "This feels great ... I don't know what was wrong the last two weeks."Manning's big day boosted his season TD total to 28 and pushed him above the 2,000 mark (2,124 yards) for his junior year.