Another sign that James Lark will be BYU's starting quarterback on Thursday in the Poinsettia Bowl: Riley Nelson has brushed off interview requests after practices on Monday and Tuesday in San Diego.
Nelson is generally talkative, affable and accommodating to the media, almost to a fault. I still remember the time he stood outside in sub 50-degree temperatures, soaking wet because he had just hopped out of one of the cold pools, and answered questions for a good 10 minutes, all while shivering and having his lips turn blue.
A couple of us reporters caught up with Nelson Tuesday night, however, at the bowl's Make-A-Wish Foundation event, and he was back to his usual self, chatting freely about his health, the team's attitude, and anything else that was mentioned.
Nelson didn't flat out say it, but in some moments it appeared that he is pretty much resigned to the fact that Lark is going to start. Other times, he spoke optimistically about contributing. He just wouldn't be Riley Nelson if he didn't hold out some hope that coaches will have a last-minute change of heart.
"We will see. I haven't been given a definitive yes or no," he said when I asked him if Lark getting the majority of reps in practices here in San Diego is a sign that the seasonlong understudy will get the reins Thursday. "So, you are kinda stuck in limbo. But that's the game. And whether coach decides that I am not healthy enough, and we go with James, or [coach] decides to take a shot on me, we will both be ready. We will both be prepared. [Lark] has gotten the majority of the reps. That's designed to try and let my rib cage heal up as much as possible. Not that that added stress on there, but man, it is getting close to the game, and it will be interesting to see what he decides between now and Thursday."
Nelson said "we are getting there, but we are not all the way there yet," when I asked him if he is 100 percent.
Mendenhall said on Monday, surprisingly, that both quarterbacks could play on Thursday.
Nelson's take on that:
"We haven't practiced that, or anything. I don't know in what capacity he is thinking about that. We have been down that road before, so I don't know if we will be trading off series and things like that. I don't think that will happen, but anything that either James or I can do to help us win, that can contribute to a win, obviously we are not going to spare any expense. It is the last game, you pull out all the stops, and you got to do what it takes to win the game."
Nelson said he probably won't participate in BYU's Pro Day next spring or pursue any kind of opportunities in professional football unless someone steps up and shows some interest in representing him.
"To me, it all depends on how much interest is shown in me. If someone wants to come and represent me, and take a shot on me, then great, let's go. But if nobody comes knocking on my door, then I guess that's the end," he said. "I have always said it is not in my nature to throw in the towel, but I am not going to take that road of going in unrepresented. But if someone hopes to represent me, then of course I am going to give it a shot."
He said it is finally starting to sink in that this will most likely be the final football game of his career.
"Just want to finish it off with a win. Just gotta execute," he said. "I think it is going to be a hardfought battle, so turnovers and field position [are huge]. I know it is the same old song, but man, if we can get plus-one in turnovers -- if we can take it away from them and hold on to it -- it will give us a good chance to win.
So that's really the focus right now, just to be efficient. They like to ground the ball and chew clock. Then they play aggressive defense. If we can kind of combat that by mounting drives, and take care of the ball, then I can kind of think about it all, and reminisce."
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