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BYU freshman running back bursts onto scene

No more baby steps for Brigham Young freshman Jamaal Williams.

The 17-year-old running back will see more playing time tonight when the Cougars (2-1) play at No. 24 Boise State (1-1). The broadcast is set for 6 p.m. on ESPN (Cox 30).

After seeing limited action against Washington State and Weber State, Williams played almost every Cougars possession last week against Utah, rushing for 30 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

"He was impressive in climbing (the depth chart) from fall camp on," Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We just continue to be impressed."

Williams has been on the fast track to success since skipping the second grade. Last fall, he showcased his speed at Summit High School in Fontana, Calif., rushing for 1,252 yards and 22 touchdowns.

At 17, not only is he one of the youngest Division I student-athletes, but his 7-yard touchdown run against Utah makes him the youngest player to score a touchdown in the modern era at BYU.

Williams chose to attend BYU over Boise State.

■ STILL FIGHTING – Despite Saturday’s 24-21 loss to Utah, senior quarterback Riley Nelson contends the Cougars still have a lot to play for.

"It’s a magical thing to go undefeated," Nelson said. "Very few teams get to do it. We’ll keep battling. Not all is lost; 12-1 is still a pretty darn good record. We still have a chance for that, and that’s our goal."

Nelson shrugged off reports of a lingering back injury, saying he is "good to go." He returns to Boise for the first time since 2006 when he was the starting quarterback for Utah State.

■ SACK ATTACK – Junior linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Spencer Hadley are ranked nationally for sacks. Van Noy is No. 4 with 4.5, and Hadley is tied for seventh with 3.5. As a team, BYU has 13 sacks in three games, while Boise State’s offense has not allowed any.

Van Noy, Hadley and the Cougars’ defense, ranked No. 9 nationally, held Utah to 49 yards rushing and 196 passing.

"We have to bounce back. As bad as that loss (to Utah) felt, you don’t want to experience it again," Hadley said. "You can sit and mope and complain and flush your season down the toilet, or you can bounce back. We don’t have a choice. We have to bounce back."

■ NEW RIVAL? – Tonight’s game is the first of a 12-game series between BYU and Boise State. But Mendenhall contends that whether it evolves into a rivalry depends on what happens on the field.

"It depends on how the teams play against each other," he said. "The regional part is helpful, and there is a lot of intrigue so long as both sides play at a level that is competitive."

Boise State, which hasn’t lost a September home game in 11 years, is 21-0 against teams from Utah since 1997, including a 2-0 record against BYU. Tonight is just the second time the Cougars have played in Boise. In 2004, BYU missed a last-second field goal and lost, 28-27.

Dave McCann is a news anchor for KSL television in Salt Lake City and is play-by-play voice for BYU sports on BYUtv. He also is the host of True Blue, which airs Monday nights at 5:30 on BYUtv. He can be reached at dmccann@ksl.com or on twitter @DaveMcCannKSL.

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