PROVO — BYU coaches expect their players — on both sides of the ball — to follow Riley Nelson this season, starting in the opening game against Washington State.
Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said the senior quarterback's personality and attitude have permeated the program.
"He's the definition of grit to me. There's an unconquerable, indomitable spirit about the guy — never-say-die, never quit," Doman said of Nelson. "Our team's the beneficiary of that mentality. They have been all summer and throughout conditioning work. In fall camp, we got a little better, which is a sign of a great leader. He's the leader. I think our team was lacking that the last couple of years."
The last 11 senior quarterbacks that have started for BYU have compiled a record of 117-23-2 since 1977 — an average of nearly 11 wins per season.
Nelson is relying on his maturity in order to keep his emotions in check for Thursday's season-opener.
"Hopefully, I can just stay calm, stay within myself and not make it any bigger than it is," he said. "I recognize that it's my senior year, it's the home-opener, and the first game against a Pac-12 opponent, all that comes with it. If I can stay calm and within myself, that will give me the best chance to play well … I look at games last year where I didn't play too well (last season) and going into it I made it bigger than it was. There were a couple of games that were marquee situations and I got a little too worked up. I'm best when I'm cool, calm and collected. I'm one year older and one year wiser. I think I can keep myself in that frame of mind."
PRAISE FOR THE PASS-CATCHERS: Nelson loves how his wide receivers, including Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo, have performed during, and since, fall camp.
Hoffman missed a handful of practices early on during fall camp due to a suspension, while Apo was limited in practice after offseason shoulder surgery.
"Cody Hoffman has been a rock and a staple. He's made a lot of plays. I think he'll have the kind of year that everyone expects him to have as long as he stays healthy, knock on wood," Nelson said. "Ross Apo came into camp and the doctors held him out of certain drills. It was hard for him to get into a groove. Last week he accelerated through and (Monday) he had a tremendous practice … They've unleashed him and he's back in that groove and he's the player he used to be."
ALL-TIME SERIES: BYU leads the all-time series with WSU, 2-1.
BYU won the most recent meeting, in 1990, 50-36. In that game, BYU set an NCAA record for most points scored in the fourth quarter to win or tie a game — 36. Led by quarterback Ty Detmer, BYU trailed 29-14 at the start of the fourth quarter before exploding for 36 points to earn a 14-point victory. Detmer passed for 448 yards and five touchdowns.
EXTRA POINTS: ESPN's crew for Thursday's game features Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Matt Millen (analyst) and Shannon Spake (sideline) … Hoffman has a reception streak of 19 games and counting, the 21st longest streak in the nation … WSU wide receiver Marquess Wilson has caught a pass in 24 straight games, tied for the ninth-longest streak ... BYU is 3-1 all-time when playing a Pac-12 opponent in the season-opener.