Nelson was benched in the third quarter in favor of true freshman Taysom Hill, who led the Cougars to their only touchdown of the game. In fairness to Nelson, though, he’s been dealing with what the Deseret News describes as a significant back injury.
Because of that, head coach Bronco Mendenhall remains committed to Nelson as a starter. With the proviso, though, that the back issue isn’t impacting his performance.
“Riley is our quarterback. I love him. I want him to be healthy,” Mendenhall said. “I want him to be able to look me in the eye and say, ‘Coach, I’m absolutely ready.’ I don’t have any different feelings than I did going into this game. … There’s no tougher person on the planet in my mind. He’s a warrior. He won’t come out unless you drag him out. I like him a lot.”
Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman reiterated his boss’ thoughts, saying that switching to Hill full-time is “all dependent upon Riley’s health, and whether or not he can play like he’s capable of playing.” If he “can’t play Riley Nelson football?” “[W]e’ll have to go with an alternative plan,” Doman said.