PROVO — Most BYU football fans thought they had a good idea who would score the team's first touchdown of the year. Cody Hoffman, Michael Alisa, Ross Apo or even David Foote — all were picks that made a lot of sense. No one likely picked the guy who actually accomplished the feat, however.
With 1:36 left in the first quarter, quarterback Riley Nelson lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone that was snagged by Skyler Ridley for the first touchdown of the season.
Ridley is a walk-on junior from Murrieta, Calif., who had no career receptions, let alone playing time before Thursday night. He wasn't someone mentioned widely by wide receivers coach Ben Cahoon in the conversation of who would back up Hoffman and Apo, yet there he was on the two-deep roster at the end of fall camp.
Subsequently, when star receiver Cody Hoffman went down with a quad injury midway through the first quarter, it was Ridley who answered the call as his listed backup.
"Coach Cahoon prepared me well for the opening game, so when Cody (Hoffman) went down, I was confident that I could get it done," said Ridley. "I asked Coach Cahoon the night before what I should expect and he just told me that I should expect to make plays like I've always done during practice. I knew that Cody and Ross (Apo) would be the guys with the most opportunities to make plays, but I really felt that I'd have a chance to make a big play and it worked out that way."
Like many others, Ridley had spent his previous years making big plays for the scout team. For three seasons, he never sniffed the playing field, but did his time getting beat up and bruised each week by the starting defensive unit.
Scout team work for three straight years is taxing and can be frustrating.
For this reason, Ridley thought long and hard about quitting football just a few months back before taking on another season with no promise of playing time.
"I made the decision to focus on some other things, but a few things fell into place and I was able to come back," said Ridley. "It's been a great ride and I've loved being part of the team and playing with guys like Riley Nelson and all the other great players here."
At just 6-foot, 180 pounds, Ridley isn't the type of player that is easy to notice or hype, but according to Nelson, he's the classic BYU receiver.
"If you look at him, he's the traditional, classic, status quo BYU receiver," said Nelson following the Washington State game. "It's good — he's a throwback guy and he did exactly what I expected him to do and what I knew he could do. He's a tough sucker and I can think of two plays where I threw high balls…he got up and took some shots in the ribs, but beat the defender."
Ridley finished the game with six catches for 54 yards which led all wide receivers. While Hoffman is likely to assume his role as the team's primary play-maker on the outside, everyone now knows that Ridley can step up when called upon.
"Tonight was really a dream come true for me," said Ridley following the WSU game. "To have a catch like that be my first career catch here at BYU — I'm just excited about how it worked out. I obviously wasn't used to catching touchdowns and really didn't know what to do after I scored the touchdown, but having my teammates run up to me and hearing the fans — it was an amazing experience that I'll never forget."