Being pulled is never easy

It's been tough for young Jake Heaps this season, but that doesn't mean he's going to pout about it. Being pulled out of a game, only to watch one's team come back from behind to take the lead with only 11 seconds left on the clock, would be hard for any competitor. But in good ol' Jake Heaps fashion, he's going to look for the positive side of this and simply move forward.

As the top high school quarterback and recruit in the country two years ago, Heaps wasn't used to losing. A multiple state champion for Skyline High School, Heaps was all-world, taking just about every quarterback award there was. Last Saturday, he was pulled out of the Utah State game.

"Yeah, this is the first time I've ever been benched during a game," Heaps said. "You know, it's not a fun feeling, but hey, like I said earlier, they pulled me and felt that Riley [Nelson] needed to come in and we won the game and Riley played well, so that was fun to see our team win that game and I'm really proud."

After BYU had been down to Utah State for most of three quarters, Heaps was replaced by Nelson, who battled Heaps for the starting spot last year until a broken collarbone sidelined him for the season. When Nelson got the call to go in while the Cougars trailed with five minutes still left in the third quarter, the decision took Heaps by surprise.

"It really did," said a humble Heaps. "I was pretty surprised about it, but, you know, it ended up working out well for our team and it was a great win and Riley played well."

Once Coach Doman decided the team needed a change in pace, the word came down to Heaps that Nelson would be the one under center for the rest of the game. So, what was said to him when the decision was made?

"Nothing really other than, ‘Hey, we're putting Riley in,' and that was about it," Heaps said. "It stung a little bit, but it worked out and it was a great win."

Being a competitor and wanting to win, it was hard for Heaps to leave the field. But in the end the decision was the right one and he understands that winning the game was far more important than whether or not he was the one that finished.

"Man, it was an exciting win for our team and our fan," Heaps said. "I'm really glad that we were able to get that ‘W.' It was a hard-fought win and Utah State played us tough, and it was hard to not be the guy at the end of the game, but we won the game and I'm proud of our guys."

There is a lot of natural inherited pressure that comes with being a BYU quarterback, and Heaps places added pressure on himself. While the competitive side of him wishes it was him that had led the team to victory, he's not pouting or sulking about the fact that he was pulled from the game. He's fine with the decision that was made by offensive coordinator Brandon Doman, and would rather focus on the positive side of things and continue to move forward.

"I'm fine and I'm actually really good," he said. "You know, it's just one day at a time and really it's just a matter of taking advantage of every rep and having a good attitude about it. It's not going to do me much good to sit here and complain and whine about it.

"It is what it is and our team won and I'm grateful for that. My teammates worked extremely hard through that week of practice and in that game we battled, fought and clawed. It was fun to see us come out with that outcome. You know, I'm just worried on a day-by-day basis and taking it as it is."

There has been speculation that the team played harder for Nelson than they did for Heaps. However, the style of play and what Nelson brings to the field, along with the sense of urgency due to limited time, could have led to that perception.

Heaps feels the team hasn't been divided, but has rather shown support for both quarterbacks.

"My teammates have been great through this whole process," said Heaps. "It's been fun to know that they have my back and support. No matter what happens, no matter what the outcomes is, I love them and they love me and that's not going to change whether I'm the starter or not. These relationships have really developed and are really strong, and so I feel really comfortable. These guys have turned it into a great situation for both me and Riley."

With Nelson's gutsy performance, Cougar fans now wonder whether a quarterback battle has reemerged and whether he will receive more reps. Whether he has or has not received more reps during this week's practice is anyone's guess.

"Practice has just been taking it one rep at a time," Heaps said. "I really haven't been paying attention to the reps and how much I'm getting. I just focus on when I do get those reps, you know, what I'm doing with them."

So what can he do to improve his performance?

"I think just probably improvement on just hitting the throws and being confident in my reads and, you know, just going from there and not second-guessing myself. You know, not looking over my shoulder and wondering what's going on and just going out there and playing and having fun and not caring if I get pulled or what happens. I can't keep control of that, and it's up to Coach Doman and Coach Mendenhall what happens at that point, so for me, I'm just going to go out there and have fun and do the best that I can and see what happens."

Oftentimes players will watch teammates and incorporate various aspects of their game into their own style of play. Heaps feels that there really isn't much he can take away from Nelson's performance, given the fact that the two have vastly different styles of play.

"Our games are very unique and different from each other, and really as a team basis, and just as a quarterback, I'm just focused on what I can do to get better. You know, I'm not really worrying about anybody else as far as that goes. All that matters to me is that we win and put ‘W's' on the board, and we were able to do that last Friday."

In the end, football is about overcoming challenges and adversity while growing. Hypothetically, Heaps more than likely would have been a redshirt freshman this year if LaVell Edwards was still the head coach – or if there had been a more developed quarterback in the system under Anae and Doman last year – given that true freshman quarterbacks generally don't start at BYU.

But Heaps isn't down and he isn't out. Rather, he's bucking up, taking it in stride, and as always, looking for the positive side of the situation to further grow as a person and player.

"You know, really you just look at it as one rep at a time, and really you can't worry about what happens," Heaps said. "I mean, even if the outcome doesn't turn my way, I can't worry about that and just take advantage of the reps I have in practice and learn as much as I possibly can from this situation. There is always some good to learn from adversity and finding the good in things. That's all I'm focused on right now."


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