BYU football: Riley Nelson winds up on top despite hype for Jake Heaps, injures

Published: Friday, Dec. 23 2011 7:00 p.m. MST

"It's easy to play good as a quarterback when you have so many people around you making plays, obviously, with all of our wide receivers playing as well as they did," Nelson said. "Our running game started off slow, but we finished up with 150 yards rushing. In my mind, it wasn't personally anything I did. Our guys stepped up. I knew I was going to be in good enough condition to play. Now, playing with pain is something different than playing with an injury that makes it so you can't do what you can do. I knew that I would be able to do everything I needed to do to play and put us in a position to be successful. I also knew that it was going to be painful. Knowing that fact going into the game, it wasn't much different than any other Saturday."

During the past year, Nelson also learned a lot about patience, and about maintaining a good attitude while sitting on the bench.

"Naturally it's not the ideal situation. Everyone pictures themselves as the starter and as the guy," Nelson said. "But unfortunately, at the position of quarterback, there's only one guy. If we were all running backs and wide receivers, we'd all be getting at least a few reps here and there. At quarterback, it's all or nothing. That's what can be difficult about being low on the depth chart, especially at quarterback. But you realize that you're one play away. You stay prepared and you're right there if you get your opportunity and you take advantage of it."

Nelson has lived that.

And, next weekend, he will make his first appearance in a bowl game, something he's waited a long time to do.

"I feel very fortunate and excited to be playing in a bowl game. At BYU, it's kind of commonplace to play in a bowl, but it's not like that at every program," said Nelson, who transferred from Utah State. "I couldn't play in the bowl game last year because I was hurt. In 2009, I watched it from the sidelines as the 50-mile-an-hour winds were freezing me down to the bone (in the Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon State). It's a great honor. But I have been around college football for a long time and I realize the biggest of games, it doesn't change anything about you. You have to maintain consistency in your preparation, in your attitude toward the game and definitely in your play. You can't do anything special. I'm extremely excited to be playing in it, but that doesn't change much of my approach toward the game."

Nelson's consistent approach has resulted in two incredible comebacks. And it's also paid big dividends — both for him, and for the Cougars.

Cougars on the air

Armed Forces Bowl

Tulsa (8-4) vs. BYU (9-3)

Dec. 30, 10 a.m., MT

Ford Stadium, Dallas

TV: ESPN Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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