Dick Harmon: BYU football: Riley Nelson picks up where he left off
Question is, how sustainable is it before injury? Nelson did fumble at SJSU's 3-yard line on BYU's first possession of the game. It is tough to be a running QB.
The other question mark, still unanswered, is how effectively can Nelson stretch a better defense than BYU saw Saturday with the Spartans? Jacobson dropped a nicely placed Nelson' bomb in the first half at the goal-line that was defended closely. On two other pass attempts past the 25-yard range, SJSU defenders intercepted them, the first when BYU's receiver may have failed to sit down in zone coverage, the other just fluttered enough for reaction by corner Bene Benwikere.
He also dodged a howitzer shell late in the third quarter when a bootleg play blew up and he launched a punt into SJSU's secondary that nobody successfully hauled in by either team.
In that third quarter, Nelson was 0-for-4 with one interception and BYU managed only a Justin Sorensen field goal. Going back to the end of the first half, he was 0-for-5 with two interceptions. Call it SJSU halftime adjustments and Doman going to the run game.
Nelson's pass rating dipped to 167 as the fourth quarter began.
Nelson lucked out in the final period on what looked like a screen play pick six when SJSU linebacker Tiuke Tuipolutu dropped the ball while eyeing a 70-yard return.
Nelson ended with a rating of 159.6 for the night, 14-of-21, three TDs, two picks, and nine carries for 65 yards.
How good was the defense Nelson faced? The Spartans led the WAC in turnovers gained and had seven interceptions in their last four games. The Spartans ranked 86th in pass efficiency defense coming to Provo. BYU had previously faced No. 1 Central Florida and No. 5 Texas in that category, and those two picks gave Nelson 40 percent of interceptions (2 to 5) of Jake Heaps in the previous five games.
But this is all fodder for the water fountain this week.
On Saturday, the story was Nelson in his first start.
The junior energized his teammates and they followed him. He made big play after big play, so much so his three turnovers were forgotten.
Nelson delivered BYU a 4-2 record, just two victories from bowl eligibility.
But more importantly, he helped dispatch a much-needed, trio of critical elements to BYU's offense: confidence, sense of urgency and efficiency.
This, on Saturday's homecoming night, was The Life of Riley.
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