Dick Harmon: Riley Nelson breathes life into Cougar comeback
Backup's unconventional approach sparks Cougs
Nelson's flutter passes found their targets time and time again. He finished the game completing an impressive 10 of 14 passes for 144 yards, his longest a scrambling, running, reloading toss to McKay Jacobson of 40 yards.
Nelson did to Utah State what Texas did to BYU's defense. Like the Cougar defenders in Austin two weeks ago, the change-up in quarterback play caught the Aggies unprepared and trying to adjust on the fly late in a close game.
They could not do it after holding momentum for almost three quarters of the game, including the first call from a scrimmage, an 80-yard touchdown run by Robert Turbin.
"You have to cover so much longer," said Mendenhall of a defense that has the threat of a running quarterback, something he'd prepared for with USU starter Chuckie Keeton.
USU never game-planned for an extended dose of Nelson.
Nelson's energy was so obvious in the game it breathed new life into BYU's defense late in the game. Cougar defenders held USU to only a field goal in the final 20 minutes of the game.
"I wouldn't put anything past Riley," said Mendenhall. "I wouldn't say that to take anything away from Jake, but I'm very proud of him."
To say the Aggies were stunned with Riley is an understatement.
The Aggie defensive weakness was pass defense and they lost their starting safety McCade Brady on a controversial ejection early in the first quarter.
But BYU couldn't take advantage of it until Nelson, and he did so with his legs first.
Nelson finished the game with a whopping 204.97 pass efficiency rating. He passed for 144 yards compared to Heaps' 107 with 11 fewer attempts and just one fewer completion.
His ability to run a hurry-up offense with the run also threw a change-up for the Aggies.
"We did it with a wrinkle, the run," said Nelson. "We ran our stuff and guys made plays," said Nelson.
"This game showed who we are," said Nelson.
A momentum changer, he certainly is.
That was definitely Mr. Nelson under Friday night's lights.
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