CORVALLIS, Ore. — When tight end Marcus Mathews was in high school, he narrowed his college choices down to BYU and Oregon State.
Ultimately, Mathews, a native of Beaverton, Ore., chose the Cougars over the Beavers.
Now, he gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to face the team he grew up watching as BYU visits OSU Saturday.
"It's the last game I'll ever play in Oregon, so that's a big thing," said the 6-foot-5, 200-pound sophomore. "I always liked Oregon State growing up. They're one of the schools that offered me and I considered going there. It's a great school. So it's a personal thing. I can't wait. I'm all jittery thinking about it."
Mathews has attended a couple of games at Reser Stadium over the years.
"It's pretty loud. It's pretty raucous," he said. "I know my friends that go (to OSU) and go to the games are crazy guys. It's going to be a crazy atmosphere."
Mathews has emerged as a playmaker for the Cougars this season, catching 16 passes for 146 yards, including a memorable, game-winning touchdown reception on a deflected pass with 11 seconds remaining in a 27-24 win over Utah State.
In that game, Riley Nelson replaced Jake Heaps at quarterback and won the starting job. In last week's 29-16 victory over San Jose State, Nelson, making his first start of the year, completed 14-of-24 passes for 219 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Heaps did not play a single snap last Saturday.
Nelson is expected to start against OSU, but Mendenhall hasn't ruled out giving Heaps another shot to play at some point.
"I'm prepared to play the quarterback that's the most productive and will help our team do its very best to reach its potential the rest of this year," he said. "My guess is that it will take more than one quarterback."
Wide receiver Cody Hoffman said he would like to see the offense play today like it did in the first half against SJSU, when the Cougars jumped out to a 23-3 advantage.
"We came out on fire. We couldn't be stopped throwing the ball," he said. "Then we kind of slowed down a little bit. We made big plays when we needed to."
Hoffman said he doesn't care about which QB plays, as long as he delivers results.
"I just want a quarterback that'll win games," he said. "If that's Riley, he's been winning, then I'm going to stick with Riley. They're both great quarterbacks. I just want a winner, someone who will lead the team to victory."
Like Mathews, Hoffman was also recruited by Oregon State. Corvallis is a five-hour drive from Hoffman's hometown of Crescent City, Calif.
"It's the second-closest Division I school to (his hometown)," Hoffman said, adding that about 200 friends and family are expected to make the pilgrimage to Reser Stadium for the game.
It was one of Mendenhall's former Oregon State teammates, Terry Vance, who informed BYU about Hoffman. "I've thanked (Vance) a lot. I owe him a lot for helping me get out here and helping get my football career going," Hoffman said.
Mathews seriously considered signing with Oregon State in part because it's close to his home. Beaverton is about 80 miles north of Corvallis.
"They have a great football program. I grew up watching them and Oregon," he said. "The coaches are really cool. Their campus and facilities are great. It was like a home away from home because it was so close."
This week, Mathews has been studying film of the Las Vegas Bowl in 2009, when BYU pounded OSU, 44-20. Former Cougar tight ends Dennis Pitta and Andrew George had a lot of success against the Beavers that night and Mathews is hoping to make big plays today for the Cougar offense.
Mathews is planning on this matchup against OSU (1-4) being close and hard-fought.3 comments on this story
"I think it will be a competitive game," he said. "I expect our team to play well and play confidently. It's going to be a good game. They're a Pac-12 team and they're a good team. They have good athletes. They've had a rough year but that doesn't mean anything. We started off 1-4 last year and turned our season around. They can do the same thing."
Cougars on the air
BYU (4-2) at Oregon State (1-4)
Saturday, 2 p.m. MT
Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.
TV: KBYU, Fox College Sports Pacific
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM