For the longest time, the idea of a freshman starting at quarterback for BYU was just this side of unthinkable. LaVell Edwards took over as head coach in 1972, and it was 16 years until a greenhorn actually took the reins to start a game, and even then, in 1988, Ty Detmer had already benefited from a redshirt season.
The only first-year player to step under center in the Edwards era was Drew Miller, who as a true freshman straight out of high school, started exactly one game in 1997.
And that was it: in 29 seasons as head coach, LaVell Edwards started a non-redshirt freshman QB only once.
Following BYU's second straight loss last Thursday, Cougar fans had a lot of questions, and head coach Bronco Mendenhall took time to answer just about all of them on Wednesday night during KSL Newsradio's broadcast of "BYU Football with head Coach Bronco Mendenhall" at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Mendenhall was joined by starting Kat safety Daniel Sorensen as this week's player guest; you can hear the entire broadcast in "Cougar Cuts," left, or on the show page in the BYU Sports Menu, lower right.
With BYU's home game against Hawaii set for Friday night, head coach Bronco Mendenhall reiterated on Tuesday that he is still not ready to name the game's starting quarterback. "If he's (Riley) not looking really good tomorrow or somewhat good tomorrow, then we could make a decision then; but we're going to hold out as long as we can." Mendenhall said.
As far as Tuesday's practice was concerned, Mendenhall said Nelson was "limited and not ready yet." Freshman quarterback Taysom Hill once again received the majority of the reps. If Hill gets the starting nod on Friday, it will be his first ever collegiate start. "I'm extremely excited if that does happen," Hill said. "It would be a great experience. I love college football and to be able to come in, in this environment, in our stadium at home against Hawaii would be a great experience. "
Senior James Lark seems to be the odd man out at the quarterback position. After starting the year as Nelson's backup, Lark was replaced by Hill as the team's #2 QB. Riley is very good friends with Lark, and said circumstances have been tough. "He's handled the situation with complete and utter class, which I wouldn't expect any less of him. It's not been easy and there's been a lot of decisions made that he has no control over, but he realizes that and still comes out here and puts his heart and soul; he's invested as much, if not more into this program as any player that's come through here."
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday that despite a back injury to quarterback Riley Nelson, "nothing has changed in my mind" and that his team's starting quarterback "is the same one that we've had," heading into Friday night's home game with Hawai'i.
Mendenhall would only call the injury a "sore back," but acknowledged that Nelson "is a little beat up still."
"Might take til the end of the week before we know for sure if he can play or not (v. Hawai'i)," said Mendenhall after Monday's practice, "...but he's tougher than any of us."
In the wake of a second successive heartbreaking setback, the BYU Cougars are left to pick up the pieces and proceed with a season that has devolved from one of promise to one of pathos, all in the space of two games, over six short days.
Two straight losses. A failed two-point conversion. Another two-quarterback situation. The number "two" figures prominently in assessing the Cougars' current predicament, so let's break it down:
With BYU on a short week going into Boise State on Thursday night, KSL Newsradio's broadcast of "BYU Football with Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall" took place on Tuesday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The show featured Coach Mendenhall and stand-out tight end Kaneakua Friel, and you can hear the entire broadcast in "Cougar Cuts," left, or on show page in the BYU Sports Menu, lower right.
In the aftermath of BYU's gut-punch loss at Utah, the end of which featured two missed last-second field goal attempts, a number of people have asked me: when was the last time BYU won a game with a kick?
It's a good question, and after some research assistance by my broadcast statistician Ralph Sokolowsky, I can report that it has been more than a decade since BYU last secured a win on a final-play kick through the uprights.
The once-promising career of BYU Basketball forward Chris Collinsworth is over with the news that he will undergo another surgical procedure.
Almost two years after a knee injury that led to microfracture surgery and caused him to miss most of the last two seasons, Collinsworth will have a similar surgery on his left ankle.
When you're not one of the BCS big boys, or more acutely, when you play as an FBS independent not named Notre Dame, your college football season is really a series of one-game seasons, relative to staying in the BCS mix. If you win the first game, you remain in consideration for the top five big-money bowls, into the second game, and so on, until you lose.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has repeatedly acknowledged that BYU's BCS hopes are annually pinned on an undefeated season, and any prospective national championship hopes would ride not on a single, but multiple unblemished campaigns.
Those being the stakes, every season starts with a considerable amount of pressure. Boise State (twice), Utah (twice), TCU (twice) and Hawaii are non-BCS programs who have withstood that pressure, gone undefeated in the regular season and shone under the brightest lights on the biggest stage.
It was after four straight losses early in the 2010 season that head coach Bronco Mendenhall had seen enough. His team was not only dropping games, but his defense had seemingly lost the ability to stop anyone--particularly on the ground.
The four-game losing streak featured the opposition averaging 32 points, and 292 rushing yards per game. Following a desultory defeat at Utah State, defensive coordinator Jaime Hill was let go, and Mendenhall re-claimed his old responsibilities. The impact was immediate.
The next week, BYU not only snapped the four-game skid, but held San Diego State to 21 points and 53 rushing yards.
KSL Newsradio's Wednesday night broadcast of "BYU Football with Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall" presented a focused coach, a defensive captain and an esteemed author.
After seeing his team jump out of the gate with a 2-0 start for the first time since 2009, head coach Bronco Mendenhall welcomed two guests this week: defensive captain Brandon Ogletree and co-author of "Running into the Wind," organizational behavior guru Paul Gustavson.
The BYU Basketball team will help break in a gleaming new hardwoods palace when it plays Florida State in the 2012 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, November 16th at Barclays Center, new home of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets.
The tournament's organizers today formalized the opening night matchups, with the Cougars and Seminoles to be followed to the court by Notre Dame and St. Joseph's. Winners will meet in the tourney title game on Saturday, November 17th, while the losers will play in the Saturday night consolation game.
For a marquee back, Michael Alisa has been given an opening-act workload through BYU's first two games of the season--but that may be about to change.
Before the season, Alisa was identified by coaches as the team's primary back, and that designation was in large part responsible for fellow back Josh Quezada's decision to transfer out of BYU (to Fresno State).
We've all heard the tale: the coach tells his turnover-prone player to start toting the football everywhere he goes--around the house, to class, to bed--just to get used to hanging on to the ball and not letting it go.
Heading into Saturday's game at Utah, BYU's offensive players may want to adopt the same approach, if not literally, then figuratively, because in the Bronco Mendenhall era (seven games; 2005 through 2011), BYU's turnover trouble has been the single-most relative determinant in the Cougars' 3-4 performance against the rival Utes.
It's the day before another BYU gameday, with the Cougars looking to go 2-0 for the first time since 2009. We talked about the Weber State game and a ton of other stuff in a Friday afternoon live chat.
If you missed it, click in below and catch up with 90-plus minutes worth of wit (a little bit), wisdom (perhaps less) and frivolity (lots of that). We'll do it again next week!
KSL Newsradio's Wednesday night broadcast of "BYU Football with Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall" featured a live LaVell Edwards Stadium audience, a defensive standout and an upbeat coach.
After getting off to a 1-0 start for the sixth straight season, head coach Bronco Mendenhall was happy to be joined by Spencer Hadley, who shared some interesting insight into his upbringing, took ridicule for his mustache and earned praise for his play.
You can check out the show in its entirety in "Cougar Cuts," above left; you can also access the audio link in the "Audio Archive" on the right-hand side of the show page. But, for a written highlight reel, just keep reading.
Bronco Mendenhall described Wednesday's practice as "sharp" and said the players were "mentally a step ahead of where they were yesterday."
With just three days remaining before the Cougars host Weber State, it appears that BYU will be close to full strength.
Five days before their in-state meeting with Weber State, the BYU Cougars were back on the practice field Monday, following a weekend off that in turn followed a nationally-televised win over Washington State.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall noted his players' unusual early-season routine when speaking with reporters following Monday's practice, saying that "how well they practice this week will kind of determine how mature they are."
"To have a nice win and a couple of days off, all at the same time, at the beginning of the year, I hope they take it right," said Mendenhall, "in terms of using it for recovery and using it to re-focus."
BYU Basketball's nationally-renowned 2013 recruiting class got another shot in the arm Monday with the news that Wisconsin high schooler Luke Worthington had committed to Dave Rose's program.
The 6'8 1/2", 240-pound power forward from Homestead HS in Mequon, Wisc. said committing to BYU "just seemed right and felt right."
BYU's season-opening 30-6 home win over Washington State was at the same time extremely promising and just the smallest bit frustrating--and that's a good thing.
After helming his team to a sixth straight season-opening victory, head coach Bronco Mendenhall told us during our KSL Radio postgame coverage that "I like our starting point, and I congratulated our team. What's fun is, they fired right back how much better they can get. That's a good sign, when I'm praising them and they're knowing that they can perform better. That's a nice place to begin from."
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