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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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Bronco: 'If Riley [Nelson] were cleared to play, I would start Riley' vs. Hawaii

Riley Nelson will start at quarterback for BYU against Hawaii this Saturday if the junior from Logan is cleared to play, coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday morning at his weekly news conference.

Mendenhall said Nelson will have another CT scan, probably today, to see if he is healed enough from the injuries suffered against Idaho to be cleared to play. He was cleared to fly last week.

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"If Riley were cleared to play, I would start Riley," Mendenhall said.

The coach added that they are going to prepare both Nelson and Jake Heaps this week to play. He said last week that it will probably be a game-time decision on Nelson.

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Mendenhall said he and the Cougars are eager to get back to practice, after having had the last four days off. He called in a "long layoff" and said he got a little bored and didn't know what to do with himself over the Thanksgiving break.

He watched football on TV, rode some horses and hung out with his family, he said.

As far as going to Hawaii and avoiding the distractions there, Mendenhall said he has only been to the islands twice for games as a coach. Of course, he has been there dozens of other times on recruiting visits and vacations.

"I checked the surf report, and it is supposed to be good," he joked. "So if I am not there at the game, then you will know what's happened."

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Mendenhall reiterated that he would like to rekindle the old rivalry with Hawaii that the Cougars and Warriors enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s when both belonged to the Western Athletic Conference.

"I know at one point this was a significant game for both schools," he said.

Other odds and ends from the morning news conference:

* Mendenhall said he doesn't know why talks between BYU and the Big East broke down last week and that he expects BYU's administration to talk about it when it is ready. He reiterated that he trusts that athletic director Tom Holmoe and school president Cecil Samuelson will make the right decisions regarding realignment/independence.

* Mendenhall said he's pleased with the growth and progress of offensive coordinator Brandon Doman through 11 games and said Doman has gained confidence as the season has unfolded. He acknowledged that Doman was thrown into the fire against a pretty good September schedule.

* Mendenhall scoffed at the notion that the game might give him a chance to pull his starters early. The Cougars are 8-point favorites. The coach said Hawaii is a lot better at home and that he expects a close, difficult game.

* The coach said he will allow BYU's players to "enjoy just being on the island" on Thursday and that the Cougars will also practice that day in Hawaii.

* Mendenhall said he missed not playing Utah a few days after Thanksgiving more than he thought he would, although he didn't miss the hype that usually accompanies the game.



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