It is a question every pundit, so-called expert and talk-show jockey has posed in the past 24 hours.
Who is to blame for BYU’s 7-6 loss at No. 24 Boise State last night?
Is it Riley Nelson? The senior signal caller from Logan came into Thursday’s game on the blue turf enjoying his finest season to date. Before the Boise game Nelson threw for over 720 yards, five touchdowns and just two interceptions.
After the Boise game Riley completed just four more passes total for 19 yards — and also threw three interceptions, a season-high, including a pick six that clinched the win for the Broncos, who by the same token were about as inept an offensive football team as anyone in Division I.
The Boise O flat out stunk up Bronco Stadium and the sell-out crowd of over 36,000 that came out to watch, all decked out in orange and blue. Just 116 yards on the ground and 145 through the air was nothing to write home about.
The kicker was, new Bronco quarterback Joe Southwick was efficient enough, not committing any turnovers.
Sadly, that was not the case for BYU’s offense that coughed up the ball early and often.
Despite a defense that gave the Cougars every chance to pull off the upset the BYU quarterbacks simply could not seal the deal — in particular Riley Nelson.
Nelson’s ineffectiveness — which some blamed on a bad back — forced BYU to bring in freshman Taysom Hill who before the Boise debacle was primarily used in Wildcat formations and red zone short-yardage situations.
Hill grew up in a hurry playing in his home state for the first time since high school, completing just as many passes as Nelson (four) for double the yardage (42).
Hill also accounted for the Cougars’ only score of the night on a bulrush blast up the middle, in which he literally carried Boise defenders with him into the end zone.
Hill was not spectacular by any stretch of anyone’s imagination but he got the ball in for points.
How ironic, because that was what Nelson did to win the starting job — except Hill didn’t convert BYU’s try for two points, leading to a 7-6 loss to the Broncos.
Perhaps it was BYU’s play calling that doomed them on this night — but the Cougars were on the road, in a hostile environment with a chance to vault back into the Top 25 — after falling back to Earth last week in the Holy War.
Why not give it the old college try for two?
Let’s be clear: not one ounce of this Cougars loss can be blamed on their defense, for it was this stout, physical band of brothers that stayed pat throughout a tough battle.
No excuses should be made here, but it was the Cougars’ defense that kept BYU in this game — and Hill nearly pulled off the upset.
So Hill — for the most part — did his job well under austere circumstances, and it can be argued that not only did Nelson not do his job but if his back was as bad some media have reported, why was he even out there on the field?
Was it to save his job? Because make no mistake about it, Nelson did absolutely nothing to keep his job — save for actively supporting Hill when the freshman got the call in the second half.
So it brings us to another point: Is Hill now ready to take over the BYU offense? Nothing he did last night told anyone he is prepared to throw the ball 35 times a game — and the Cougar running backs proved they still can’t tote the rock.
The quarterback, the kid, however? Put him at running back and you might be surprised what happens. Hill ran for 72 yards last night, almost double his passing total and highest among any Cougar running backs.
Sound familiar? It should, because this is how Nelson got the starting job at BYU not too long ago.
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