EARLY LOOK: BYU

WHEN BYU FACES off against Oregon State on Saturday (TV: FCS, 1:00 PM), Riley Nelson would appear all but certain to be the starting quarterback based on what coach Bronco Mendenhall says. Jake Heaps, who lost his job a couple weeks ago, is waiting in the wings.

BYU has found some consistency on offense with Nelson under center. He took over midway during the Utah State game, which BYU pulled out at the end.

In 13 drives with Nelson at the controls, BYU has averaged 51 yards and 7.9 plays.

They have also converted 11-16 on third down and scored five TDs, two field goals, and have not punted during that stretch.

Mendenhall particularly likes Nelson's ability to manufacture plays when protection has broken down.

HE ALSO LIKES what running back Michael Alisara was able to do (16 rushes, 91 yards) against SJSU in a 29-16 win.

"We've been looking for a back to run between the tackles with a physical presence from the beginning of the season to now," said Mendenhall of Alisara.

For all the talk about the quarterback that will come out this week, it's worth keeping mind BYU ran the ball 44 times against SDSU for 224 yards.

What has hurt BYU all season long, however, has been turning the football over. BYU is ranked 108th in turnovers lost in the 120-team FBS.

BYU HAS FARED well in close games, besting Ole Miss (14-13), Central Florida (24-17), Utah State (27-24) and SJSU (29-16). They lost a close one to Texas (17-16), and were blown out by Utah (54-10).

"How we're going to match up (against OSU), not having common opponents to look at, it's a little bit of a mystery," said Mendenhall.

BYU is ranked No. 43 in total defense.

Their defensive line is on the big side, with plenty of 300-pounders who can line up among their three down linemen. The linebackers are big and fill the lanes well, with teams finding it a challenge to run inside. That's one of the main goals of the BYU D – to plug up the gaps and give runners nowhere to go.


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