PROVO — BYU quarterback Riley Nelson high-fived a referee after scoring during last week's loss against TCU — a play that has gone viral on the Internet.
Not only has it been popular with viewers, but coach Bronco Mendenhall loved it, too.
With two minutes remaining in the game, the Cougars scored a touchdown, then decided to go for a two-point conversion. Nelson rolled left, lowered his head and shoulder, collided with a couple of Horned Frog defenders, and stretched the ball over the goal line for two points to pull BYU to within 38-28, which ended up being the final score.
As the line judge raised his arms to signal the score, Nelson exuberantly slapped the official's hand in celebration.
The clip attracted thousands of views on YouTube.
"It was a bummer. Right as I was getting up there on hits on YouTube, they took it off for copyright infringement," Nelson joked after Tuesday's practice. "It just happened. It was like a funny reaction."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall thoroughly enjoyed Nelson's high-five.
"Loved it. Loved it," he said. "When you get an idea of being in the moment, that's pretty much it. I've never seen that before. I would love that to kind of be a symbol of BYU football — you're having so much fun that you're finding someone to celebrate with."
Nelson has become something of an Internet sensation this fall, with several tributes made in his honor. It started after he wore a cut-off jersey that revealed his abs during fall camp. Then came "Ode to Riley Nelson's Hair" after he came off the bench to rally the Cougars to a dramatic, fourth-quarter victory over his former team, Utah State.
"It's kind of like the same thing with fall camp. I get razzed a little bit," Nelson said. "I wore the cut-off shirts, trying to do the throwback 1980s, 1990s thing. With the high-five, the game should be fun. If people can laugh and have a good time, even if it's at my expense, great. Because I don't take myself too seriously. I don't take the game too seriously. It is a game. Obviously, when I'm out there it's about competing and I'm a highly competitive guy … But at the same time, there are little elements within it that you can have a lot of fun with."
STAYING AGGRESSIVE: Nelson contributed to all three of BYU's turnovers against TCU — two interceptions and a fumble — on aggressive plays. Some might call those unwise decisions.
But Mendenhall doesn't want to limit Nelson's aggressiveness.
"I'm kind of more promoting Riley to be aggressive," the coach said. "I think our team responds well and along the way we're going to have to be more careful with the ball on some circumstances. Some of the plays he's making, though, is what his strength is. So there's a delicate balance in there. But he's got a few decisions he can make at a higher level."
In the second quarter, while under duress, Nelson threw the ball into the end zone. The ball was tipped, then intercepted by TCU.
"Obviously, I've got to be smarter. But on that pick in the end zone, I'm sorry, but I made a play and my guy got two hands on it and he got hit early and it wasn't called," Nelson said. "Whatever. That's football. That's what happens. I'm not going to worry about it. My decision-making and my execution and the sharpness with which I execute the pass game will keep getting better. That's something I am conscientious of and something I am focusing on. But I'm going to be me. If I try to be someone else, my play will be very poor. And I'm not going to let that happen."
Mendenhall said he hasn't talked to Nelson about his decision-making, leaving that to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman.
"I love (Nelson's) aggressiveness and I love that mindset," Mendenhall said. "Some of the plays he makes are probably balls we wouldn't have thrown, then we catch them and it's a great play and everything's good. So there's a fine line in there."
BYE WEEK: The Cougars practiced Tuesday and will practice again Wednesday and Thursday before taking the weekend off. BYU doesn't play again until Nov. 12 at home against Idaho.46 comments on this story
Mendenhall said Tuesday's practice focused mostly on the development of younger players. On Thursday, the Cougars will begin preparing for the Vandals.
Nelson said he and his teammates are trying to put the TCU loss behind them.
"We're dealing with the loss and all the emotions that come with it," he said. "But our morale is high and our work ethic is good. Today it showed in practice."
INJURY UPDATE: Backup linebacker Austen Jorgensen is scheduled to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, said head trainer Kevin Morris.