We have a top-10 opponent in our house on homecoming. It's a great opportunity. —BYU QB Riley Nelson
PROVO — No matter what happens at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday, it figures to be a memorable — if not historic — day.
For starters, BYU is staging its first Homecoming Blackout. Legendary former Cougar quarterback, and 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, Ty Detmer will be honored at halftime. And, hey, it's an afternoon game.
Oh, and by the way, an undefeated team ranked in the top 10 is in town. The Cougars, who host No. 10 Oregon State Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ABC), haven't defeated a top 10 team at home in 22 years. This marks just the seventh time ever a top 10 opponent has played in Provo.
"Anytime you're playing the No. 10 team at home, it's a cool thing," said linebacker Brandon Ogletree. "It's an opportunity that doesn't come around every day. So we're going to make the most of it."
Meanwhile, senior quarterback Riley Nelson will be taking snaps in a game for the first time in more than three weeks.
"I'm full-go. I'm excited," Nelson said. "We have a top-10 opponent in our house on homecoming. It's a great opportunity."
For the first time in the modern era, the Cougars will don black uniforms, specially created by Nike. BYU is encouraging fans to wear black. The end zones at Edwards Stadium are painted black and the "Y" oval logo at midfield has been painted black.
"We're excited to play in our (black) uniforms," said linebacker Uani Unga. "A lot of guys say when you look good, you feel good and you play good. So we're excited."
"I'm excited about it," said coach Bronco Mendenhall of the blackout. "I think the players are and hopefully the fans are. I'm sure some are hesitant because they consider it breaking tradition. Hopefully they'll come and enjoy a great football game against a really good opponent."
In eight seasons under Mendenhall, BYU has played 15 teams ranked in the top 25, posting a record of 4-11. The Cougars have dropped four straight games against ranked opponents.
The last time BYU beat a ranked team was, ironically, against Oregon State in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl. The last time the Cougars defeated a top 10 team was in 2009 against No. 3 Oklahoma in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
BYU hasn't knocked off a team ranked in the top 10 at home since 1990 — Detmer was playing quarterback — when it registered its monumental upset of No. 1 Miami.
Cougar linebacker Kyle Van Noy is looking forward to Saturday's challenge.
"It's going to be awesome. It's going to benefit us. It's going to get us exposure," he said. "It's going to help test our defense and test our offense and our special teams. They're a sharp team coached by a good coach. It's going to be a good game."
While the Cougar defense is among the nation's best, the offense has struggled to score points. Can Nelson, who hasn't started a game since Sept. 20 at Boise State, jump-start the offense against a tough Oregon State defense that is No. 4 in the nation in stopping the run?
While freshman QB Taysom Hill, the starter the past two weeks for BYU, suffered a season-ending knee injury at the end of the Utah State game, the Beavers also lost their quarterback, Sean Mannion, to a knee injury last week. Cody Vaz, a junior, will be making his first start for OSU.
Nelson, who has been dealing with painful fractures in his back, said he's feeling normal again.
"My back feels good. I'll be able to move freely and there won't be constant pain and intense pain when I get hit. It was at a point where I was feeling it in every step, every throw, every cut and every move."
After a couple of weeks of rest, "I'm back to myself," Nelson said.
Last year, Nelson threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 87 yards in a 38-28 victory at Oregon State.
"It'll be interesting," Nelson said. "We've taken our lumps and we have two losses and they're undefeated so far this season. But as I study their defense, their best players are the same guys we played last year in Corvallis. They've obviously improved and gotten better. We feel the same thing, even though we've lost a couple of close games in tough venues. We feel like we're a much-improved team. It will be a fun game."6 comments on this story
Nelson said that despite his injury, he won't change his style of play, adding he'll try to avoid taking "unnecessary" hits.
"I'll play as I've been playing. I didn't play hesitant, I took all the hits I needed to take and ran when I needed to run when I was playing with fractures in my back. Now that they're healed, I don't expect to revert back and play any differently."
The Cougars will be hoping for a solid performance from Nelson on what could be a memorable, and historic, day.