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BYU's quarterback situation vs. Hawaii up in the air

Published: Thursday, July 2 2015 8:38 p.m. MDT

Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) completed 21-of-36 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns with an interception vs. New Mexico State. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) completed 21-of-36 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns with an interception vs. New Mexico State. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

PROVO — Going into the regular-season finale against Hawaii, BYU's quarterback situation is up in the air.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday that junior Riley Nelson will start Saturday at Hawaii if he is cleared to play. If he's not cleared to play, sophomore Jake Heaps will get the start.

Last week, Nelson, who suffered lung and rib injuries against Idaho on Nov. 12, was given the green light make the flight to Honolulu. He hasn't yet been cleared play, however.

In Nelson's absence, Heaps led the Cougars to a 42-7 victory over New Mexico State on Nov. 19.

"Riley has another check-up this week," Mendenhall said. "There will be another CT scan. He's been cleared to fly, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's been cleared to play yet. We're going to prepare both quarterbacks all the way through the week."

BYU quarterback Riley Nelson cheers on his team from the sideline of the Idaho State game.  (Ravell Call, Deseret News) BYU quarterback Riley Nelson cheers on his team from the sideline of the Idaho State game. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Nelson was scheduled to undergo a CT scan on Monday, according to Mendenhall.

MISSING THE RIVALS: Usually in late November, BYU is preparing for the annual rivalry game against Utah.

This year, the Cougars had a bye and enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving.

But Mendenhall said he missed the rivalry game last weekend.

"I never thought I would say that because of how much hype and anticipation (around it), but the season didn't seem right to finish," he said. "I'm not sure what (Utah's) thoughts are, having it inferred that Colorado is their rival. But it's a lot of history. It's natural for that game not to be quite what it was in terms of the BYU-Utah game. It's just unfortunate that there's not a way to schedule around that."

BYU senior running back Bryan Kariya said "it is kind of weird" not playing Utah at this time of year.

"It's something you kind of get used to throughout your time here, playing them the week of Thanksgiving," he said. "I don't feel like our guys have lost any type of motivation for preparing for the rest of games that we have. It is a change for the program, but I don't think it will effect us negatively."

EAGER TO GET BACK TO WORK: Over the long weekend, Mendenhall found himself itching to get back to football.

"I'm sure that's not what Holly (his wife) wants to hear. I had a good time with the kids. I had a nice time with Holly. I was able to get on a horse a couple of times, which was fun," the coach said. "But it seemed like we should have been playing a game. I wasn't used to it.

"I think that was maybe only the second time since I've been in Provo that we haven't played on Thanksgiving (weekend). I did watch football, which was kind of weird as well. Just anticlimactic. I didn't quite know what to do. I'd have to get in a rhythm of this every year to figure out how to be more productive over Thanksgiving. I kind of laid around a lot … After what seems like a long layoff, we're anxious to play."

THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE: The Cougars will practice Monday through Wednesday in Provo, then fly to Hawaii on Wednesday.

"We'll work aggressively here in Provo Monday through Wednesday before we board the flight," Mendenhall said. "Thursday will basically be the players' chance to enjoy just being on the island. We'll have a practice there, but our focus will be to get the majority of work done here."

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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