With him stepping up, as well as running back Michael Alisa doing the same, the Cougar offense has received a much-needed shot in the arm.
"There's challenges every season, there's pressures and there's things that everyone's got to deal with," said offensive lineman Houston Reynolds, "and I think part of what makes BYU a great place is not only do people step up at times that they're needed, but the type of kids that step up, the way they step up."
Receiver Cody Hoffman said that the biggest difference in the Cougar offense as it began putting up better numbers weekly was the momentum that Nelson brought.
"He brings that leadership that really makes everybody want to push harder, ‘cause everybody knows that he's going to sell out every play for them, and so everybody wants to sell out and just keep the momentum rolling, keep the tempo up," said Hoffman.
While Nelson was never thought to be a precise downfield passer, the Cougars are getting more big passing plays with him at quarterback. His perceived strength has always been his mobility, but that mobility has actually fueled the passing game.
"I think Riley's a fighter," said Reynolds. "I think above everything else, when he has the ball, you know that there's always a chance that even if it doesn't go right or blocks don't get made or things aren't open … he's going to make something happen with his feet."
Sometimes Nelson will simply take off and run with a play breaks down. But whether it's extending a play by moving around in the backfield to buy time for receivers to get open, or escaping a would-be sack and getting an unlikely pass off, Nelson's mobility has allowed Cougar receivers to make plays.
"It makes things a lot easier because when he can avoid one tackle or two tackles in the backfield," said Hoffman, "it really gives receivers and tight ends more time to work the defense and get open, and it's harder for the defense to cover longer, so it creates mismatches."
Of course, his mobility means the offensive linemen often have to block for longer periods of time.
"You just have to really continue to stay on your man ‘cause you never know what's going on behind you," said Terence Brown. "The time that you maybe stop blocking, you think the ball's gone or whatever, that's the time that it's not."
But beyond his ability to make plays – an ability that will be tested this week – Nelson has also helped bring the proverbial swagger to the offense.
"I think you always think that [you're going to win every game], but Riley, he's a confident guy," said Brown. "He's not scared of anyone, and hopefully we can continue as a team to kind of take that attitude and play these teams and play hard."
Ultimately, that could be one of his biggest contributions to the team. Brown said that Nelson has brought some confidence to some of his teammates and helped them play better.
"He plays hard and we know that, and we're gonna play hard for him, just like we would for anyone else though," said Brown.
As Brown said, the team would play hard for anyone else, and that of course includes Jake Heaps. Though they have given recognition for what Nelson has accomplished since taking over, the Cougars still support their other teammates.
"I think Jake Heaps has done a great job," said Reynolds. "I like them both, I think they're both great quarterbacks."
Still, one can't deny that the team has seemingly become an all new one since Nelson took over.
"It's a great experience to have him back there, because you know that he's fighting, he's gonna make something happen, and he's there, he's committed," said Reynolds. "When you know that guys are committed, you fight for them."