Riley Nelson turned the ball over three times in critical situations, keeping BYU from coming from behind to beat San Jose State on Saturday.
BYU was down 20-7 when Nelson threw a 20 yard touchdown pass to David Foote to make it a one possession game. Justin Sorenson and the special teams executed a perfect onside kick to give the Cougars one last chance to win the game. However, after two false start penalties, Nelson fumbled the ball to seal the game for the Spartans.
Nelson finished the game with 335 yards passing and a touchdown pass. It was his three turnovers that led to the Cougars’ demise. However, Nelson’s performance may have been impacted by some hard hits he took from some San Jose State defenders.
“He took another hard shot and the guy is very resilient,” BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “We had James (Lark, backup quarterback) ready because RIley was hurting. We weren’t sure how and if he was going to be able to continue and he just kept recovering and recovering. He gave us a chance to win.”
BYU’s defense started slowly, allowing San Jose State quarterback David False to throw for 237 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. The Spartan’s Noel Grigsby had 132 yards receiving and caught two of Fales’ touchdown passes.
“We just were not concentrating very well on our assignments.” Mendenhall said. “They had some nice concentration plays that forced our players to really concentrate from the beginning of the play to the end of the play. They had three big plays to start the game and then we decided to concentrate. (I) give San Jose State credit for the way they started the game.”
Fales opened the game throwing a 51-yard touchdown pass to Grigsby. However, BYU’s Russell Tialavea blocked the extra point attempt. The Cougars were able to respond though, putting together a solid drive that culminated in Jamaal Williams rushing 16 yards for a touchdown. Williams now has 11 rushing touchdowns on the season after beginning the season as the No. 2 running back.
San Jose State then scored two more touchdowns on passes from Fales to end the half. BYU’s defense stepped up in the second half and got to Fales a number of times shutting out the Spartan offense in the second half, but it was to late for the Cougars to make a comeback.
The Cougars close out their regular season on Saturday against New Mexico State at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN 3.