BYU tries to stop skid against Nevada
PROVO, Utah – Jake Heaps already has the job he came to get at BYU.
Now the highly touted freshman quarterback has to prove he’s worthy of it as he tries to lead the Cougars out of a two-game slide when they host Nevada on Saturday.
“That’s why I came here. I didn’t come here to take half of it, or to not be the guy,” said Heaps, who became the undisputed No. 1 quarterback this week when BYU announced Riley Nelson was out for the season with an injury to his right shoulder.
Heaps has shared time with Nelson this season, but Nelson hurt his non-throwing shoulder last week in a 34-10 loss at Florida State. So the job now belongs to Heaps, who has completed 30 of 60 passes for 260 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“I came here to hopefully be the guy when the time was right to lead the team. Right now, it’s happened,” Heaps said. “It’s been unfortunate circumstances. But I’m ready enough.”
Heaps may be busy as the Cougars (1-2) try to keep up with Nevada (3-0), which is off to its best start in almost 20 years.
The Wolf Pack are averaging 560 yards and almost 51 points after a 52-31 rout of then-No. 24 California last Friday. Dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns and passed for another 181 yards and two more TDs as the Wolf Pack piled on 592 yards against the Bears.
Nevada hasn’t opened a season 3-0 since winning its first 12 games as a Division I-AA school in 1991.
“The response has been just terrific. I think the players have just been outstanding and being very modest about it,” coach Chris Ault said. “They’re very proud and obviously very excited, but it’s a young season and obviously we have a ways to go. And as I’ve told them, there will be bigger games down the road.”
The Wolf Pack haven’t even trailed in any of their first three games this season.
Kaepernick is averaging almost 366 yards of total offense and probably given BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall as many headaches this week as the Cougars’ own quarterback situation.
“I’m seeing him in my sleep. This quarterback is very good,” Mendenhall said. “What’s interesting is you’ll see an offense that is very similar to Air Force but with a downfield throwing game and a drop back passing game that is exceptional. There are a lot of moving parts to it, but the quarterback at any point can rush for 100 yards and make it look effortless. He’s fast, he’s big and he throws it well.”
BYU is trying to avoid starting the season 1-3 for the first time since 2005, which was Gary Crowton’s last year coaching the Cougars.
The Cougars followed a 35-14 loss at Air Force by getting blown out in the second half at Florida State last week. They’re back at home this week, but are underdogs to the favored Wolf Pack.
“It’s a role that we’ve earned to this point. We haven’t played at a high enough level yet to be considered the favorite,” Mendenhall said. “We’re used to being the favorite, but our team hasn’t played at that level. Nevada is. I just watched their game against Cal and they’re a very good football team. They’re playing well.”
The Cougars will be without receiver O’Neill Chambers, who is serving a two-week suspension for an undisclosed disciplinary violation.