21 September 2012

Where have I seen this before?


The starting quarterback struggles mightily, showing difficulty scoring points and even completing passes.

In the fourth quarter, BYU's coaching staff decides to bench the starter and bring in the backup. The backup engineers a 95-yard drive, mostly on the strength of a few runs and some iffy-looking passes, and punches it into the endzone in dramatic fashion.

This is where the similarities end, as Quarterback A won his game, while Quarterback B did not.

But it's eerie, right?

Another difference: Coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Riley Nelson would start the next game after his heroics against Utah State last fall, while the same Coach Mendenhall has announced Riley Nelson, this time the disgraced starter, will start the next game again over freshman backup Taysom Hill.

Why? I can explain it only by assuming Bronco loves Riley's heart and grit, which are admirable.

But if heart and grit were all you needed to be a college football star, Rudy would be a Heisman winner.

As I wrote in November,

[Riley is] enough to beat bad teams, will never, ever be the reason BYU beat a great team, or even a very good team. His throwing ability has improved this season from last, but he still has low arm strength and extremely questionable decision-making skills.

Not much has changed, sadly. There are rumors that he has a back injury, but even healthy, Nelson was never the guy to lead BYU to the next level.

And even injured, it takes a special quarterback to deliver a -4.8 quarterback rating during a nationally televised ESPN game.

I liked what I saw from Taysom. I'd love to see his passing improve, but he's a better runner than Nelson has ever been. He's quicker, faster and stronger, and he has better ability to make guys miss. None of his completed passes were particularly pretty, but he had some zip on the ball, and I think his misses can be corrected.

His touchdown run, where he dragged three defenders into the endzone? A thing of beauty.

In other news, Bronco's decision to go for a two-point conversion last night has drawn a lot of ire from fans.

And in the context of trying to win the game, they are 100 percent right.

But in the context of the long-term future of BYU? Not as much.

Consider this scenario. You have a freshman quarterback who has seen limited time on the field this season. He has just engineered a potentially game-winning drive on the road, against a good defensive team.

You tell Tayom, "Son, go out there and win us this game. You have one play to determine success or failure; go succeed."

And you sit back and watch.

Will he implode under the pressure? Will he panic?

Or will he run right, keeping his eyes on the endzone while forcing defenders to account for his ability to scramble, and throw a dart to an open BYU receiver?

Sure, a Bronco linebacker made a super-impressive play to stretch out and tip that pass, but the play was solid.

The play showed me what I want to know about Hill. Is he afraid of the big moment? No sir. Will he wilt under pressure? Nope. If he can develop the passing ability to keep defenses from keying in on his running, he'll be a good one at BYU.

And learning that meant more to me than getting a meaningless win at Boise State on a Thursday night in September.

So please, Bronco. Start Taysom next week. Start him every game this season. You may lose some games you might have won with Riley. It doesn't matter. This season is the Poinsettia Bowl, or worse, for this Cougar team. Give Hill the time and reps he needs to be a special player in 2013. Give him the experience to be ready when Texas and Utah and Notre Dame come to Provo next fall.

Help 2013 be the best season it can be by sacrificing your love for Riley Nelson.


1 comment:

Jason said...

I have finally come over to your side as far as Riley goes. I really wanted to believe that he could improve and become a solid quarterback, but I held faith in him far too long. I 100% agree with starting Hill the rest of the way and preparing him for the juggernaut that is next season. I kind of disagree with your unique assessment of the 2 point conversion play. I think no matter what you go for the tie and take your amazing, awesome, killer defense and built-up momentum into overtime and win it there. BSU won't win on kicking, so you go win. Winning is still important, even though I agree you want to build your best quarterback for next season. My two cents.