Mendenhall said Nelson hurt his non-throwing shoulder during fall camp, but that injury wasn't discussed publicly. Early in the Florida State game, the injury worsened after Nelson absorbed a hard hit.
Team trainer Kevin Morris described it as "a severe injury to the shoulder" and that Nelson will undergo surgery as soon as possible. "We felt like it was necessary right now to get it done," he said.
Part of me feels bad for Riley. The kid plays hard at Utah State, loses a ton of games, and gets the chance to play for BYU. He comes in at what was probably the worst time possible for him; Heaps is breathing down his neck, the offense as a whole is worse than it's been since 2003 and the early schedule is brutal. Despite all of this, he went out there and played his best, giving everything he had to this team.
And now it's all over.
But the other part of me doesn't feel that bad. It's not as if Riley is a true Div-I FBS starting quarterback. He can't pass that well, he's not especially fast and his reads are subpar. He got more of a shot at glory than he should have, in my opinion, and he failed to make the most of it.
So now we enter the Jake Heaps years. Against Florida State he showed flashes of brilliance while making a ton of mistakes. This is to be expected from an 18-year-old true freshman playing against an ACC defense that is pretty good. He'll learn to step up in the pocket. He'll develop a sense for when a blindside hit is coming and protect the ball. And his timing on crossing routes will improve.
Now, I don't know how high he'll actually go. Is his ceiling Ty Detmer? John Beck? Max Hall? Brandon Doman? There have been far more talented players who have failed in college; for him to be unable to adjust to the speed of the game wouldn't be surprising.
But from that hurry-up touchdown drive he led near the end of the first half, I saw a lot of good things. His touchdown throw to Cody Hoffman with 14 seconds left in the second quarter was beautiful; anytime the quarterback looks off the safety and drills a pass to a crossing receiver I'm impressed.
So I expect a lot of bumps over the next few games, and I expect Heaps to improve every week. Will BYU win? Probably not a lot. BYU's defense is too poor to keep the Cougars in games. But the offense will score more points than they have recently and I'll be happy.
Go Cougars. Tomorrow I'll preview the Nevada game and discuss my many concerns with this team as a whole.