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BYU football: Cougars prepare for first of two Top 10 teams

BYU football: Cougars prepare for first of two Top 10 teams



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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This Saturday BYU will tribute the ghoulish month of October with a "black-out" homecoming game against the orange-trimmed Oregon State Beavers, ranked No. 10 in the AP Poll.

Though some fans are pointing fingers and disapprove of the non-traditional uniforms, the wardrobe color is the least of everyone's worries this week.

BYU (4-2) vs. No. 10 Oregon State (4-0)
Game Notes
  • No. 10/14 Oregon State (4-0, 3-0) at BYU (4-2)
  • Date/Time: Oct. 13, 2012 - 1:30 p.m. MDT
  • Site: LaVell Edwards Stadium
  • TV: ABC
  • Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM 1160 AM
  • Series Record: Tied 5-5
  • Last Meeting: 2011 (BYU 38-28)
  • Kickoff Weather: Mostly sunny, temps in the low 60s

What is the talk of the town is this: At the very end of Friday's game against Utah State, true freshman quarterback Taysom Hill received a blow to his knee that ended his promising season.

"Multiple injuries," head coach Bronco Mendenhall said about Hill's condition. "There's a ligament that's damaged. There's a hamstring that's damaged. ... He took a helmet right on the knee."

So ready or not, BYU has no choice but to turn back to original starting quarterback Riley Nelson, followed by his initial backup, James Lark.

Nelson extended his empathy to Hill, counting his absence as a huge loss for the team.

"My heart goes out to (Hill)," Nelson said. "First and foremost, my prayers are with him. A season-ending injury is tough. I've experienced those before and they're frustrating and they're hard to get over. Second of all, it's a big blow to our team. He's a playmaker and one of the best offensive weapons. To have him go down leaves a hole in our offense, so other guys are going to have to step up and fill it."

To some, it seems as though the funeral bells are tolling on BYU's season, but to Cougar football higher-ups, the confidence is still there.

"Riley's ready," said Mendenhall. "And (Lark) is a really good player. He's very persistent and dedicated and he's waiting for his chance."

As for Nelson's back injury, it's over and done with, he says. At the very least, he explained, in terms of walking around during everyday life and feeling physically good, he's back to 100 percent.

"My back feels good and I'll be able to move freely and there won't be constant pain and intense pain when I get hit," Nelson said. "It was at a point where I was feeling it in every step and every throw and every cut and every move, and that accumulated. It would occupy my mind so much to where it affected my decision-making and my play and really my confidence level. So that's all gone because I don't feel pain anymore. I don't feel hurt and I don't move hurt and I'm back to myself."

Funnily enough, the news of Hill's injury happened two days before a similar announcement from Oregon State. The Beavers' star quarterback, Sean Mannion, also received a knee injury during the OSU's latest conquest (a 19-6 win over Washington State this past Saturday) and won't play until further notice.

Taking Mannion's place will be taken by second-stringer Cody Vaz.

Vaz's college football history is minimal. He's played five games, completing 6-of-17 passes for 48 yards. But here's the kicker: He hasn't played in an actual game since the 2010 season.

Despite the switcheroo, Beaver fans have the utmost faith in their team, and plan on pulling out a win Saturday.

However, it won't be easy with BYU's defense around. The Cougar D has jumped to No. 2 in the NCAA defensive ratings, continuing to earn national attention after a 6-3 win over Utah State — the 12th-straight game in which the Cougar defense held its opponent to under 300 yards and the 13th consecutive quarter it held the opposing team without an offensive touchdown.

And though BYU's offense isn't receiving nearly as much praise as its defense, a defensive tackle from Oregon State still found it hard to suppress his excitement for playing against "a pro-style offense" on Twitter.

That remark echoes the fact that BYU has a different offensive style than what the Beavers have seen so far this season. After three straight games of throw-happy offenses, Oregon State is excited to prepare for a Cougar offense full of rushing quarterbacks and running backs alike.

BYU is just as excited to play a Top 10 team.

"It'll be interesting because we've taken our lumps and we have two losses and they're undefeated this far in the season," Nelson said. "But as I look and study their defense, their best players that we faced last year ... are the same guys I remember seeing ... across the ball in Corvallis, (Ore.), so they've obviously improved and gotten better. We feel the same. Even though we lost a couple close games in tough venues, we feel like we're a much-improved team, so it'll be a fun game. It's a great opportunity for us to play in a national spotlight against a top-ranked team on homecoming.

So we're just excited to compete and ready to play."

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Alex Hoeft

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