No. 91 Riley Nelson – Quarterback – 2008-2011
Was he a good player or a bad player? He won some games and cost the Cougars some games. Should he have been the starter or the backup? Was his hair too long or was it lusciously perfect? These are just some of the questions that are debated about Riley Nelson, which make him just straight up…awkward to talk about. To give some perspective, Riley Nelson played in all four seasons on the team with significant time. All four of these seasons Nelson was either being cheered to be put on the field or booed to be taken off of it.
- In 2009 it was with Max Hall. Nobody really argued that Hall shouldn’t be the starter, but there were goalline situations or fourth down plays that if not converted, fans wondered why the mobile quarterback wasn’t in the game.
- In 2010 freshman Jake Heaps arrived and gave Nelson a run for his money. It actually seemed like the most popular quarterback was the one not playing until a few games into the season when Heaps took over the job.
- 2011 saw the opposite of Nelson taking over Heaps’ job. After the Utah State comeback that will be mentioned later, he had the job, but there was still some debate especially after two INT’s against TCU.
- 2012 had Nelson start the season with Taysom Hill as a backup just to be replaced by Hill and then made the starter against after Hill went down with an injury.
To sum it all up, Nelson had an awkward career and it could be put in the religion and politic category of things not to talk about around the dinner table.
Nelson was the first of now quite a few quarterbacks to be mobile enough to make an impact on the field with his legs. If BYU does not have Nelson in the game against Utah State, Tulsa or Oregon State, the Cougars probably lose those games. I am not sure what effect that had on recruiting other mobile quarterbacks like Taysom Hill, Zach Wilson, Beau Hoge or Jaren Hall but I have to believe it helped out some giving some major impact points to the BYU Football program going forward.
Nelson was not Mr. Interception, but his career 35 TD’s and 21 INT’s are not jump off the page good either. For some perspective Max Hall threw for 35 TD’s and 14 INT’s in just one season. His career 858 rushing yards are a positive for a quarterback, especially when he was the first mobile quarterback since Brandon Doman a decade earlier, but not good enough to improve the ranking much. Wins are great and he had some game winning plays, but game winning plays aren’t statistics and his overall 14-7 record is good enough to give him a C- overall grade.
Memorable Moments A-
The flowing hair comeback against Utah State is a game that Cougar fans have a hard time forgetting. Having already been benched by Jake Heaps, Nelson came in sort of as a desperation move and ended up hitting Marcus Matthews off a tipped pass interference pass with just seconds left in the game. Another memorable moment is when Nelson on his own called the fake spike play against Tulsa with 11 seconds left to hit Cody Hoffman in the corner of the endzone to win that game. And who can forget the when Nelson high fived the ref after scoring a touchdown against TCU.
So whether or not you loved or hated Riley Nelson, there is no doubt in saying his results were just awkward.