After raving about the past success of BYU senior quarterbacks, the Cougars very well could start a freshman against a Norm Chow-coached Hawaii team Friday night in Provo.
Senior Riley Nelson acknowledged the pain of an unspecified back injury has been problematic both mentally and physically in stinging back-to-back losses to Utah and No. 24 Boise State.
"It's going to be hard if we have to go with a freshman," BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said this week. "That will be quite a unique challenge for us. But players trust him and coaches trust him."
Doman was talking about Taysom Hill, who replaced the mistake-prone Nelson in Thursday's 7-6 loss to the Broncos and engineered a 95-yard, fourth-quarter TD drive only to have his two-point conversion pass to win it tipped away by a linebacker.
"He's not a like a true freshman," Doman said of the returned missionary who has been with the team since January. "He's been around for a while and he's smart. Then he brings a high level of poise, so when he walks out there, the players don't feel like he's a freshman and they feel totally confident in him. If we have to play him, I don't think we'll hesitate for a minute."
Doman said coaches likely will decide by Wednesday whether to stick with Nelson but probably won't announce a starter until game time against Hawaii (1-2).
The Cougars (2-2) certainly need more than the 61 yards passing they got last week- their lowest total since a 3-0 loss to Utah in 2003 when they netted just 41.
"Sixty-one yards passing ... I feel like I'm 61 years old," said Doman. "It's not good enough."
Nelson was just 4 of 9 for 19 yards, with three interceptions (one returned for Boise State's only score), a fumble and two sacks for a negative efficiency rating.
Hill was 4 of 10 for 42 yards but also rushed 12 times for 72 yards, including an 8-yard QB keeper in which he carried several defenders across the goal line for BYU's only touchdown.
"He's big and strong and he's got a big heart," Nelson said of Hill, an Idaho native who initially committed to Stanford before transferring to BYU after his church mission to Australia.