Nelson's three touchdowns lead to victory on senior night
PROVO, UTAH –Senior Riley Nelson threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Cougars to a 52-13 win over Idaho on senior night at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday night.
With the win, BYU improves to 6-4 and will be going bowling for the eighth consecutive season after accepting an invitation to the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, Calif.
Tonight, the Cougars recognized the 23 seniors on the roster for senior night before the game. Seniors Robbie Buckner, Simote Vea and Russell Tialavea had a part in three of the five turnovers that the Cougars caused in the game. Defensive back Buckner intercepted a pass in the second quarter. Defensive lineman, Vea recovered a fumble towards the end of the second quarter and fellow defensive lineman Tialavea also recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter.
"It's nice to see the seniors come out of the tunnel and get honored in their last home game," head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "It was a great way for us to finish up at home. I think they were anxious to play, they were resilient through the week of practice. We're looking forward now to going on the road for the next two weeks."
Nelson tossed three touchdown passes and completed 19 of 31 passes for 236 yards and no interceptions in his final home game of his career. Senior James Lark also saw action in most of the second half adding another touchdown pass.
Cody Hoffman led the Cougars with 108 yards receiving on nine receptions and three touchdowns. Freshman running back Jamaal Williams had his second consecutive game of rushing for more than 100 yards, finishing with 104 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
The Cougars finished the night with 537 total yards and held the Vandals to 273 yards of total offense.
After a missed field goal by Idaho on its opening drive, BYU faced a fourth and one from their 45-yard line, and Willams ran for 49 yards to set the Cougars up on the six-yard line. On the next play, Nelson connected with Hoffman for the touchdown to give BYU an early 7-0 lead.
On BYU’s next possession, Nelson ran a bootleg left and found Ross Apo deep on a post route down the middle of the field for a 53-yard completion, the longest pass play of the year. Williams scored on a nine-yard run to make it 14-0 with 7:50 to go in the first quarter.
Nelson continued to lead the offense on its third-consecutive scoring drive, connecting on long passes to Hoffman and Skyler Ridley for 19 and 17 yards, respectively. Williams, No. 21 matched his number to the score with his second touchdown of the game, giving BYU a 21-0 lead with over four minutes left in the first quarter.
Idaho wasn’t going to go away just yet and responded by putting together a seven play, 55-yard drive that led to a touchdown. Quarterback Logan Bushnell found wideout Mike Scott deep in the middle of the field for a 33-yard touchdown to cap the drive. Bushnell threw for 48 yards on the drive.
Ray Guy Award semifinalist, punter Riley Stephenson pinned the Vandals deep in their own territory on the nine-yard line. On the first play of the drive, the Idaho center snapped the ball over the head of quarterback Bushnell and linebacker Spencer Hadley recovered the fumble and scooted three yards into the end zone for a touchdown to increase the lead to 28-7.
After a failed fake punt on the Vandals’ first possession of the second quarter, the Cougars got the ball back on the Idaho 33-yard line. Moving the ball behind a completion to Hoffman and a run by Williams, Nelson found Hoffman in the back of the end zone for a juggling, six-yard touchdown to bring the score to 35-7. It was the second time that the pair hooked up for a six-yard score for the game.
Hoffman hauled in another score from four yards out on the next possession to give BYU a 42-7 lead with 6:49 to go in the half.
The Cougars slowed down the pace in the second half, playing several reserves and seniors in the final home game.
In the third quarter, Idaho picked up three points on a 39-yard field goal by Trey Farquhar.
Just before the start of the fourth quarter, BYU got the ball back on just over midfield. Lark came into the game and completed two passes to Ridley for 12 yards and 17 yards, respectively to move the Cougars to the Idaho 13-yard line. After three rushes by Paul Lasike, Lark hit freshman Cody Raymond for his first career touchdown reception to push the lead to 49-10.
BYU tacked on a field goal late in the fourth quarter and Farquhar added one for Idaho as time expired to bring the score to 52-13.
The Cougars hit the road next week to face San Jose State on Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. PST. The game will be televised live on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
BYU center Connor Pay was named to the 2023 Rimington Trophy preseason watchlist for the second season in row.