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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nelson warming up, but...

About a week ago, I wrote an article that said Riley Nelson was a "disguised mistake." I still think there is some validity to that, just not as much as I might have emphasized.

The fact of the matter is, Nelson is winning. What else matters? Numbers? He will not win any statistical battles with other quarterbacks. Fan approval? The players venture to say they don't listen to what fans have to say, and they don't read the press clippings. Is that entirely true? Probably not, but the fact remains that Nelson is winning for this ball club, and that's why he continues to play.

Nelson is prone to turnovers.
Even against below average competition
However, I do still hold some reservations about the lefty QB.

I still don't agree that he should be given a longer leash than Heaps. He still turns it over, almost twice as much as Heaps. In fact, is turnover/quarter ratio says just that. Heaps has played in 18.5 quarters, to Nelsons 9.5 quarters. Heaps has thrown 5 INT's to Nelson's 3 picks on the year. Interestingly, they both have thrown a pick-6 as well. Heaps has an unofficial count of 2 fumbles, where Nelson has 3. That makes the total of turnovers per QB: Heaps 7, and Nelson 6. The ratio of quarters/turnover is roughly 2.64:1 (quarters/TO) for Heaps and 1.58:1 for Nelson.

What I am trying to say is simply this. Nelson is winning, yes. But he should be destroying the teams he has played in comparison to Jake Heaps. He turns the ball over 60% more than Heaps, and is only beating San Jose State by 13?! That is not okay. The argument has been made that Nelson puts points up. He has, again certainly more than Heaps. BUT HE IS PLAYING SAN JOSE STATE!!! He better be putting up more points against WAC teams.

I am warming up to Nelson, only because he is winning. But if he continues to turn the ball over at this rate, his leash has got to be shortened, and true solution be found. When BYU plays TCU, the Horned Frogs will turn 3 turnovers into at least 13 points if not 21, unlike San Jose State.

Its time to produce points, without the turnover game continuing. That will be the downfall of Nelson. That is where I completely agree with Bronco not naming an official starter the rest of the way. This allows for the competition to remain open, and for Heaps to possibly have the fire lit under him. Or maybe somebody else that wants to take care of the ball and get some wins.

Do I hear time for James Lark?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Riley Critic Converted

I've been refusing to admit it for weeks, but I am now ready to embrace Riley Nelson as our QB. Consider me convinced.

Some of you may recall that Little Bro said earlier this week that Riley Nelson was a "disguised mistake," and I agreed with him for the most part. I wasn't sold on Riley Nelson's arm strength (I'm still not, especially after seeing the pick 6 against Oregon State) or how he would do when teams game plan for him.

But now that I've seen the offense march down the field on almost every drive, I can't kick against the pricks any longer. Nelson has turned out to be a mix of Max Hall and Steve Young, with Hall's guts and fire and Young's running ability and left-handedness. It seems that the only thing that has been able to stop the offense is themselves via fumbles and interceptions. This offense (minus the turnovers) is something all Cougar fans, this one included, have been craving since opening kickoff. Nelson has provided that, and he deserves to start.

That being said, I think everyone has to admit that a) Nelson has played against much worse defenses, b) the offensive line has blocked a lot better for him (perhaps also a product of the better defenses to start the year), and c) the running game has finally come to life, thanks largely to a hidden star in Michael Alisa.

These counterpoints notwithstanding, the BYU Cougars are fun to watch once again. And unless Riley Nelson melts down, he should be the starter. The next big question will be whether to red shirt Heaps next year or whether there will be yet another quarterback controversy next spring. Cougar nation watches anxiously.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nelson is a Disguised Mistake

29 points. Really? 29 points is all the cougars could put up again San Jose State? No offense to San Jose State, but that game should have been over at half time.

But what happen? How did a 23 point first half, turn into a slow, non eventful pickup game?

Riley Nelson.

The worst thing that could have happened to BYU, happened. BYU won the game, and Nelson had flashes of greatness. I repeat "flashes." Throwing 3 first half touchdowns, and bringing BYU out to a commanding 23-6 lead. Only to see that come to a halt in the second half with only 2 field goals, and 3 turnovers, 2 of which were in the second half. Riley had 3 turnovers in the blue zone. That is 3 too many.  Nelson did not finish off his game, bringing back the lingering question of whether he is fit for the starting quarterback job, or if Heaps should get it back.

Nelson has grit. No one can deny him that. He has heart, he shows it every play. However, one thing he lacks, is the ability to throw the ball consistently.

Now, Heaps has not shown this ability yet so far this season either, but look at the teams Nelson has played compared to Heaps.

Riley Nelson has played against: San Jose State, Utah State

Jake Heaps has played against (all starts): Ole Miss, Texas, Utah, UCF, Utah State.

I'm sorry. You look at those two comparisons, and it is not even a contest on who has played the harder teams, and still managed to come out with a winning record (albeit one of the wins should be credited to Heaps). Heaps has played SEC, Big XII, Pac-12 speed and schemes, over WAC opponents. Heaps has got to be given his dues for what he accomplished. Not to mention, Riley Nelson set a personal record for passing yards on Saturday... with 219. WHAT? When did a BYU QB have a "record" with 219 yards passing.

This is a team that should be airing it out to their big wide receivers, and versatile backs. However, they continue to try and be something they are not.

I love Nelson's heart, and the guy is a tough football player. But that is all he is, is a football player. Let the quarterback, Jake Heaps, start and continue to grow and play in the easy part of their schedule and I promise dividends will pay off. Maybe not this year, but they will come.

Start Heaps!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Big XII Is Desperate

When TCU got invited to the Big XII, most followers of conference expansion news were shocked. And for good reason. There are a plethora of reasons why TCU is not a good pick for the conference:

First and foremost, TCU is a small school with low attendance and a small national fan base. According to this oft-cited NY Times study, TCU boasts a whopping 370K fans nation-wide. They only average 42K in football attendance. Both of these figures are just barely more than Big 12 bottom-dweller Baylor. Of course, these numbers will likely increase with BCS membership, but one wonders why the Big XII would jump for a team that adds very little revenue to the pot (a pot that is now going to be evenly distributed).

Additionally, adding another Texas school is unlikely to bring more television viewers to the Big XII. Even if TCU's following were on par with other schools in the conference, Frogs fans likely already follow Big XII football (Texans are almost honor-bound to watch the Longhorns). Just like BYU fans watch most Utah games, most TCU fans are already watching Texas games.

Finally, TCU does nothing to repair the Big XII's image of instability. The Frogs are entering their fourth conference in the last decade, and they didn't even play a single game before ditching the Big East. If the Big XII isn't able to fix itself and another BCS conference offers TCU a spot, it would surprise no one if they bolt again.

The only logical reason for bringing in TCU is that they were the only team willing to enter the sinking ship with few or no conditions. As noted, the Horned Frogs are college football's conference-hopping (no pun intended) team, so the Big XII knew that TCU would jump (ok, pun intended) at the chance to play with the big boys, especially given the recent collapse of the Big East.

My guess is that the top teams on the Big XII's list (BYU, West Virginia, Louisville, and Cincinnati) were not willing to sign on without assurances that the Big XII would not bleed out and die in the next few years. TCU, on the other hand, has shown a propensity to join any conference that offers a (seemingly) brighter horizon. So, the Big XII invited them in order to project stability in hopes to attract other the teams higher up on their list.

Whether BYU is still on that list is up for debate. And only time will tell whether the addition of the Horned Frogs is enough to lure any other team to the fold. It's hard to believe that the Big 12 thinks that TCU alone is enough to make up for the loss of Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M, and possibly Missouri, so my guess is that they want to add at least one more team.

In the end, TCU does not stabilize the Big XII. In fact, it seems to make the conference (and the Horned Frogs) look desperate. As this drama continues to unfold, Cougar fans will be anxiously waiting to see if the Big XII will make the necessary concessions to get BYU on board.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bigger issues presented with win

Utah States heart got stomped on again, this time by the Cougars of BYU. Riley Nelson lead BYU on the magnificent 9 play 96 yard drive with just over 2 minutes, to give BYU a come from behind 27-24win against in state rivals Utah State.

However, with the win came probably more questions than answers. Unfortunately.

Jake Heaps yet again proved ineffective. Heaps threw for 107 yards on 11-25 passing. Multiple overthrows and misreads again were his ultimate undoing, before he was taken out midway through the fourth quarter in favor of back-up, former Utah State Aggie, Riley Nelson.

It proved to be the best coaching decision on the season by the cougar coaching staff.

Nelson was masterful in his constructing of the comeback, using his running and scrambling abilities to make plays and make them when they were needed. His biggest play probably came with the 40 yard heave to Mckay Jacobsen to set up the final couple plays of the comeback. We all know what happens after that.

This is where the biggest issue of all comes up. Heaps was replaced by Nelson, who performs beautifully under pressure, and gets the comeback win. However, is this really the best option.

Now, I like many of you am getting very close to jumping off the Heaps bandwagon. However, this could damage not just Heaps, but BYU for the next couple seasons. Here's why.

A spot of luck handed BYU a comeback win
First off, the win though exciting, was relatively lucky. Yes, it was! Matthews was in the right place at the right time, on a poorly thrown ball by Riley Nelson. The pass was originally to a covered (though illegally) JJ Di Luigi. The tip landed right in Matthews lap, and again I repeat, luckily.

This fact must be remembered, because it should put in perspective how "good" Riley Nelson is. If anything should have happened, Matthews should have received the initial look, he had his man beat and was in the back of the endzone alone. But the throw went to Di Luigi, and luck smiled on the cougars.

Secondly, if sitting out while seeing your backup rally your team to a double digit comeback victory isn't enough to knock Heaps into reality, I dont know what will. The fire that Nelson brings is contagious on the sideline. However, it still hasn't seemed to have reached Heaps head.

When Heaps was spotted on the sideline, he did show a little support and not moping. However, he did not have a look for "personal accountability" on his face. He had the look of "the plays were not made" rather than "I didn't make the play." I think thats the attitude Heaps needs, is that of personal accountability. He just hasn't shown that.

This is the biggest problem of all. Heaps is a lot of talk, and sometimes rightfully so. However, as of late, he needs to shut his mouth and make some throws. Heaps was named the starter for a reason, he needs to show the fans why.

If Riley Nelson were to start, there could be some repercussions that I personally do not want to experience. Heaps confidence could be destroyed. A team that was once his to lose, was lost by him. This is the time for Heaps to have some good game, with teams like San Jose State, a weak Oregon State team, Idaho, Idaho State. The cupcakes on the schedule are a great opportunity for Jake Heaps to get some easy reads, and multiple completions. Having some drags routes across the middle with Jacobsen and a tight end could be huge. At the same time, JJ Di Luigi needs to be utilized a little more.

Another point being, that Heaps needs this for the team to be successfull next year. It is unlikely he will be permanently supplanted as the starter next year in favor of Riley Nelson, and that is even more reason for Heaps to start. Let him win the team back, and if he doesnt in the game, then Nelson can be the fire off the bench. I think that role fits Riley Nelson better than a starter.

BYU has to look to the near future of next year. They need to continue to start Heaps.

Now, while talking analysis with Big Bro last night after the comeback, an interesting topic came up. "The receivers seemed to show up after Nelson came in," Big Bro stated in dismay. I tend to think this is jumping ship a little bit. I think Nelson was simply throwing the ball where only his guys could make the catch. Something that Heaps has struggled with continually throughout the season.

Nelson's throws were by no means dead on target. However, only the cougar could have made the catch. Along with accuracy, Jake has had too many balls batted down by linemen this year, showing he is targeting one guy, instead of going through his reads and looking off safeties.

These reason seem to point for the replacement of Jake Heaps with Riley Nelson. But I promise this is not a good idea. For the future of Jake Heaps, and for the season at hand, Jake needs to start these next few games.

The only difference needs to be like Saturday, he needs to be held accountable for his performance. Or lack there-of.