PROVO — When running back Michael Alisa went down with a broken arm on Sept. 28, BYU turned to 17-year-old true freshman Jamaal Williams to help carry the load.
Williams has proven to be up to the task.
The 6-foot, 190-pounder from Fontana, Calif., is the Cougars' leading rusher with 345 yards on 65 carries and five touchdowns. Williams has also caught 10 passes for 130 yards.
"It's been great to have him and as a true freshman; considering what happened to Mike Alisa, it's been really helpful, and he's handling the role like he's comfortable, which is great," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I think he's doing well in school, and he's adjusting socially. There's a lot on his plate, but he's on the right track."
Asked about his role, Williams said, "I'm just doing my part as a teammate for the team. I believe that I'm just showing that I can help out in any way they want me to, to run the ball or pass block. Anything they need me to do, I'll do for the team."
Going into the season, Williams didn't expect to be playing as much as he is now.
"I thought I would mostly be on special teams and get carries at the end of the game," he said. "But it's just the will of God to give me the opportunity to play right now. I'm just grateful. I'm grateful for linemen and receivers to block for me and help me get into the end zone."
Quarterback Riley Nelson appreciates Williams' contributions. "He's a great football player and he has great hands," he said. "The thing I'm most impressed with is just his feel for the game. He hasn't let the transition from high school to college intimidate him at all. He plays very confident, and it shows."
Williams had a couple of long gains on shovel passes last Saturday against Oregon State.
"We've done the shovel in the past and it really hasn't been productive," said offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. "We kind of changed the way we've done it, and it helped us a lot."
Williams said he is looking forward to Saturday's contest at No. 5 Notre Dame.
"It's going to be a pretty interesting game. We look forward to playing ranked teams, and we look forward to the challenge. It's a test for us to see how strong we are. We're excited for it."
GOLSON CLEARED: Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson successfully completed concussion testing and has been cleared by team doctors to practice with the team.
Does Mendenhall expect to see both Golson and backup Tommy Rees on Saturday?
"Hard to say," he said. "We'll prepare for him first because there's more dynamic type of plays. If he's out, then it's a little more conventional, which is not easy to defend, but it's not the extra work on scrambling and stuff like that."
SEASON'S NOT OVER: When asked his reaction about those BYU fans that consider that the season is over now that the Cougars are 4-3, Nelson said, "Shame on them."
Nelson added: "There's still a lot of season left and we can still have a great season. I saw a tweet in our school newspaper that said, 'Now that BYU football season is over, let's concentrate on basketball.' I feel bad for that guy. He declared that he's not a true fan. He's not invested. We are. There's still a lot of fans and people outside the program that are. We're not going to let them down."