Recurring nightmares are quite common in the sports world and are a constant source of pain for fans. Whether it be your favorite team losing in the playoffs to the same team every year, or a star player who gets hurt right before the playoffs time and time again, bad things seem to happen to our favorite teams and athletes over and over again, while we sit there helplessly reliving these horrors.
During halftime of BYU's game against TCU this past Friday, Cougar fans were bracing for such a repeat of the lowest point of this season, suffered at the hands of arch-rival Utah. The circumstances were all too familiar: The Cougars were trailing a former Mountain West Conference rival at halftime and had allowed the opposing team to score right before the end of the half. BYU's QB had committed several mistakes already, and BYU's defense was continually being put in difficult situations that were proving too much to handle. Surely, the team would once again come out lifeless in the second half and BYU would be routed in humiliating fashion.
Except that's not what happened at all, as BYU outscored TCU 18 to 10 in the second half and the game ended in a respectable 10-point defeat to a team ranked just outside the Top 25. The defense buckled down and allowed only 10 second-half points. The special teams provided a touchdown courtesy of a 67-yard punt return.
Most importantly, BYU quarterback Riley Nelson showed the type of grit and determination that had been completely absent from BYU's second half against Utah when Jake Heaps was the signal caller.
One of the most common complaints from Cougar fans after the Utah loss was that the team—and especially Heaps—had completely quit during the second half and were only going through the motions on the field without any effort. After the TCU loss, the main gripe about BYU's QB play was that Nelson had tried to do too much and didn't know when to quit.
Has Riley Nelson done enough to earn the starting QB job for the rest of the season?
That is exactly why Nelson proved he deserves to be BYU's starting QB.
The main thing hindering BYU's progress the past two seasons has not been talent, as the last few recruiting classes have been among the highest ranked in the history of BYU football. No, BYU's main obstacle to a successful season has been mental toughness and a lack of focus and desire.
Nelson has many flaws as a QB, but those are certainly not among them.
Against TCU, Nelson's leadership skills and desire are exactly what prevented a repeat of the Utah fiasco. Nelson never appeared resigned to defeat, and his teammates fed off his determination. While attempting a two-point conversion, Nelson scrambled and was met well short of the goal line by the TCU defense, but somehow lunged forward several yards and managed to break the plane, resulting in two points. He then proceeded to jump up and high five the referee who was signaling a successful two-point conversion.
If that doesn't epitomize Nelson's play as BYU's starting QB, I honestly don't know what does. And that attitude has spilled over to his teammates, who seem to reflect the attitude of their quarterback. As long as Nelson is the starter, the team refuses to quit.
Which is why Riley Nelson will and should remain BYU's starting QB.