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No silver lining in the 24-21 loss to Utah, BYU's Riley Nelson says

Published September 16, 2012 2:44 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Just when everyone thought a BYU-Utah rivalry football game couldn't finish in a wackier fashion than, oh, about 10 have in the past two decades, the 2012 iteration happened at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Final score: Utah 24, BYU 21. I'm assuming you saw it — and either jumped in sheer delight or felt like you'd been kicked in the gut, depending on your perspective — as Riley Stephenson's 36-yard field goal clanked off the left upright at the south end of the stadium. Watching from the press box, the crowd usually tells you whether a kick is going to be good or not, so in that split-second of wait time I figured this one was going to be razor-close because there was no crowd reaction until after the doink. So instead of a blow-by-blow recap — go to sltrib.com/cougars for that — I will bring you a little of what BYU quarterback Riley Nelson had to say. "It hurts," said Nelson, who became just the second senior BYU QB to lose to the Utes in 40 years. "It really does. We had our opportunities to not put ourselves in that position. But to have a ball doink off the upright hurts. It hurts even more when you know that you didn't have to be in that spot." Nelson, playing with a painful back injury, completed 17 of 35 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Cody Hoffman caught eight passes for 120 yards and a TD, while his running mate, Ross Apo, did not have a reception. Hoffman's 47-yard reception on 4th-and-12 got the Cougars in scoring position with 10 seconds remaining. "We kinda drew it up in the sand," Nelson said. "He and I both saw something. It was something we talked about on the sideline. He executed it. That's the kind of player he is. He's a special player. I love him. He's my brother, and I know I can always count on him." Nelson said the 24-21 loss hurts as much as last year's 54-10 loss to the Utes, maybe more for the seniors. But it can't be called a moral victory, he said."Nope, not at all. No moral victories. No silver lining. We need to win football games, and we weren't able to accomplish that objective today." There were a half-dozen or so plays that BYU can look back on as plays that meant the difference between winning and losing Saturday night, but by far the biggest one was that shotgun snap from center Blair Tushaus that got past Nelson. After Nelson and running back Mike Alisa both tried to corral it, Utes DB Moe Lee scooped up the gift and went 47 yards for a TD to make it a two-score game when BYU was in position to either tie it or take the lead."I was calling a route adjustment on the outside, and Blair [Tushaus] saw my feet moving, and thought that was me giving him the signal that I was ready to get the snap," Nelson said. "So it was just miscommunication between my center and I." Nelson said he tried to jump on the loose pigskin, but collided with Alisa. "Then I think Mike tried to scoop it, and that was a problem. That's why they ran it back for a touchdown. Not to blame Mike. We both got to do better in that situation. That's not Mike's fault in the least." So the Cougars don't have much time to lick their wounds. They play at Boise State on Thursday."Yeah, we have to get it out of our system," Nelson said. "It will tell us a lot about what kind of team we are. Because if we don't come prepared, they will embarrass us up there. We think this was noisy, and we think this crowd was crazy, I played up there when I was a freshman at Utah State, and that crowd brings it. Utah exposed some weaknesses, and we will have to correct them."I asked Nelson what coach Bronco Mendenhall told his team after the defeat:"He said that we need to execute in all facets of the game. Can't have turnovers on offense, can't have missed assignments on defense, can't have miscues in the special teams game. He was proud of the way we battled, and the heart with which we played. Even though he didn't say it, I know he was disappointed in our execution. I was disappointed in our execution as well as a leader of this team. Us as leaders need to take it upon ourselves to get it corrected."