Brigham Young (4-2) starts the second half of the season Saturday against No. 10 Oregon State (4-0) at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The game will be televised regionally by ABC (13) at 12:30 p.m.
When the Cougars run onto the field, coach Bronco Mendenhall will be keeping a close eye on his quarterbacks. He believes they have been running too much this season - and at a significant cost.
Freshman quarterback Taysom Hill injured his left knee and hamstring on his final run Oct. 5 against Utah State. The injury will require surgery and a four-to-six-month recovery. Hill was playing while senior Riley Nelson healed his fractured back - an injury he suffered while running the ball against Weber State on Sept. 8.
"It's not a sustainable model," Mendenhall said of the Cougars' offensive scheme. "Especially when our quarterbacks run as hard as they do and aren't avoiding contact."
In his two starts, Hill ran 34 times for 223 yards and a touchdown. His injury occurred after a miscommunication from the sideline. On first down with 1:13 to play and BYU nursing a 6-3 lead, the Aggies had one timeout remaining. All Hill needed to do was kneel down a couple of times to end the game.
"I told him to run the clock down," offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said. "He misinterpreted what I said. He called a play and ran to the line of scrimmage. We didn't get a timeout called in time. It's my fault."
Hill was injured on the ensuing play when he ran a quarterback draw - his 19th carry - into the heart of the defense.
"Cleaner communication on our part needs to be done," Mendenhall said. "It's not his fault. It's our fault."
Nelson returns as the starting quarterback against Oregon State. He played injured during BYU's 24-21 loss at Utah and 7-6 defeat at Boise State. He sat out the Hawaii and Utah State games.
"I feel good," Nelson said. "My back feels good, so I will be able to move freely. I'm back to myself."
Nelson passed for 217 yards and three touchdowns in BYU's 38-28 victory last year at Oregon State. But he was also the Cougars' leading rusher with 87 yards on 12 carries - an area his coaches will be watching closely.
"I'm not gonna be able to stop him from scrambling around," Doman said. "But here's to hoping we can keep him healthy."
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is also out, having injured his left knee last week against Washington State. Junior Cody Vaz will make his first start since high school against a BYU defense that hasn't allowed a touchdown in 13 quarters.
■ BACK IN BLACK - BYU will break from the traditional blue-and-white home uniforms and wear all black for the first time in school history. The "Black Out" is a marketing effort between BYU and Nike. Fans are encouraged to also wear black.
■ KICKING WOES - Starting Saturday, junior Justin Sorensen will handle kickoffs, field goals and extra points while Riley Stephenson will remain the punter.
Stephenson, a senior, began the season with all of the kicking duties while Sorensen recovered from back surgery. In the last four games, the two kickers have combined for three failed extra-point attempts and four missed field goals.
■ LAS VEGAS MEMORY - The last time BYU beat a ranked opponent was against No. 18 Oregon State in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl. The Cougars withstood hurricane-like winds to blow past the Beavers, 44-20.
The series between BYU and Oregon State is tied 5-5. The last time the Beavers won in Provo was a 10-7 decision in 1986 when Mendenhall was a starting safety for Oregon State.
Dave McCann is a news anchor for KSL television in Salt Lake City and play-by-play voice for BYU sports on BYUtv. He is also the host of True Blue, which airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m. on BYUtv. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DaveMcCannKSL.