Who’s the boss?


Buoyed by two resilient wins and besieged by sudden quarterback controversy, the BYU Cougar football team hopes its momentum overrides distractions as it hosts San Jose State Saturday.

The homecoming contest is the last of the Cougars’ four game home-stand and comes against a Spartans team riding a two-game win streak of its own.

After finishing off UCF and Utah State on consecutive weeks, the Cougars are strongly favored this week against the Spartans. The team, however, has been forced to take into account an unsure quarterback situation — a problem the Cougars haven’t faced since quarterback Riley Nelson went down with a season-ending injury early last year.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall has declined so far to name a starter but said the players’ performances in practice this week will be a major factor.

[media-credit name=”Luke Hansen” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Quarterback Riley Nelson runs with the ball Friday evening during the BYU-USU game. BYU brought home the victory 27-24.
“[The decision will hinge on] production in terms of practice, how they manage the practice reps, how they’re each handling the situation they’re in and who will provide the best leadership and production,” Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall also made it clear there are long-term effects to the decision, and the coaches are being careful not to overreact to one performance.

“This isn’t only a one-game decision, and it’s not only a season decision. It’s trying to take into account two young men, the short term and the long term for each of them and [for] the program,” he said. “Productivity immediately will win the day, but again I don’t see it as being we name a starter this week and then it’s tenure the rest of the season.”

The short leash on whoever is named the starter will be sure to keep receivers on their toes as they adjust to quarterbacks with different styles of play.

“The coaches haven’t told us anything yet,” said sophomore wide receiver Cody Hoffman, who was roommates with Nelson last year. “We know about as much as the media do. We’ve just got to be ready for whatever.”

Heaps said this week he is focused on his need to categorize between individual and team performance.

“It stung a little bit [being benched] but it worked out, it was a great win,” Heaps said. “All that matters to me is that we win. … No matter what the outcome is, I love [my teammates and] they love me. That’s really not going to change whether I’m the starter or not.”

Nelson was low-key about the quarterback decision but said he was grateful to teammates who praised his performance against the Aggies.

“When your teammates pay you a compliment I think that’s the highest form, because they’re the ones in the locker room with you battling day in and day out,” he said.

As BYU figures out its identity in the passing game, the team may be given time to do so as it moves into the soft part of its schedule. The Cougars’ remaining opponents have a combined record of 11-18 and feature four WAC foes.

Mendenhall insisted the Cougars aren’t looking past the Spartans, who recently ended a 16-game road losing streak with two straight road wins.

“Like most teams, you hope to turn on the film and think that it is going to be an easy opponent, but after watching San Jose State I don’t think that and our defensive staff doesn’t think that,” he said.

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