PROVO — On Saturday when BYU hosts New Mexico State, Jake Heaps will make his first start at quarterback since Sept. 30.
Heaps replaced an injured Riley Nelson last Saturday and helped BYU roll to a 42-7 victory over Idaho. The sophomore QB, who completed 15-of-20 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the Vandals, made the most of his opportunity when Nelson went down in the first quarter.
"I've been working hard every day in practice, preparing as if I were the starter," Heaps said, "just looking at my game and seeing what I can fix. I feel really comfortable with where I'm at right now."
"I think he's confident and anxious for the next chance to lead our team," coach Bronco Mendenhall said of Heaps. "He showed very well last week in terms of his level of preparation. I don't think it surprised he or I that he played well."
Mendenhall said Heaps has benefitted from his time on the sidelines and out of the spotlight.
"Maybe just the perspective he's been able to glean from taking a step back for a little bit and be out of the BYU quarterback mode, which is a nice thing for a minute or two," he said.
DEALING WITH THE ELEMENTS: With a late kickoff (8:15 p.m.) and cold weather (30-something degrees, including snow in the forecast), Saturday's BYU-New Mexico State game will not be for the faint of heart — on the field or in the stands.
Coaches and players on both teams have downplayed having to play in adverse conditions.
"I told our guys, using my NFL experience, 'It's Monday Night Football.' Everybody in the country is going to be watching this game," said Aggie coach DeWayne Walker, adding that he's not concerned about snow and the frigid temperatures. "This is not the game you want to play your worse."
New Mexico State quarterback Matt Christian said the late start "is not a big deal. We play all our home games at night. I think if anything, it will help us."
Christian, who hails from San Diego, Calif., laughed when he was told about the chance of snow flurries in Provo that night.
"Snow flurries," he said. "I've never heard of that statement. I'm looking forward to it."
MONUMENTAL MOMENT: In 2007, BYU faced UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Bruins were led by Walker, who was the Bruins' interim head coach.
The Cougars won, 17-16, on a last-second field goal block by then-freshman defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna. That was his final game before he left for a mission.
"It was a fun game for me," Manumaleuna recalled this week. "There was a lot of hitting and it was very physical. As an offense and defense, we played a really great game."
Is that block his claim to fame?
"People do still bring it up. It's just funny how they always remember it," he said. "Somehow I always meet people who were in that end zone at that time. They always say they were there. I love talking to them about it. I love how they're excited about it. I just tell them it was a great play and I had a lot of fun that season, but I'm trying to make new memories."