Brigham Young quarterback Riley Nelson can fly. Now the Cougars are awaiting word on whether he can play.
The junior from Logan, Utah, suffered a partially collapsed lung and two broken ribs during the first quarter of BYU’s victory over Idaho on Nov. 12. Despite a projected three- to four-week recovery, Nelson returned to practice this week.
“Miracles happen,” he said. “I’m a lot further along at this point than I thought I would be.”
Doctors cleared Nelson to travel to BYU’s regular-season finale at Hawaii on Dec. 3. Initially, the medical staff believed the long flight in a pressurized cabin could affect his healing lung.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Nelson will start against the Warriors as long as doctors clear him to play.
“It will probably be a game-time decision,” Mendenhall said. “He is throwing (the ball) and running around a little bit. We will prepare him like he will play and see how it goes.”
The Cougars haven’t missed a beat since Nelson’s injury. BYU (8-3) routed Idaho and New Mexico State by a combined 84-14 score as sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps threw six touchdown passes in the two games.
■ EDWARDS RETURNS — Former Cougars coach LaVell Edwards was back on the field Saturday to pay tribute to his grandson, Matthew Edwards, during a ceremony that honored 19 departing seniors. Matthew Edwards finished his Cougar career with just one reception — a 9-yard touchdown grab late in the third quarter against New Mexico State.
“If that doesn’t put a smile on his face, nothing ever will,” Matthew said of his grandfather, who rarely smiled during his 257 victories at BYU.
■ HOLT RECOVERING — Sophomore tight end Austin Holt is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee. Holt was injured during the second quarter against New Mexico State. He joins sophomore tight ends Richard Wilson (knee) and Devin Mahina (neck) with season-ending injuries.
■ HOLIDAY HOOPS — The men’s basketball team plays UNR today in the Chicago Challenge Invitational in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
The 3 p.m. game, to be carried on BYUtv (Cox 352), is the first meeting between the Cougars (3-1) and Wolf Pack since their 2009 shootout in the Las Vegas Classic at Orleans Arena. BYU’s backcourt of Jimmer Fredette, Jackson Emery and Tyler Haws combined for 78 points in a 110-104 victory.
The winner of today’s game will face either No. 11 Wisconsin or Bradley in Saturday’s championship game.
■ BIDING HIS TIME — Former Bishop Gorman basketball player Anson Winder spent his redshirt freshman year on the Cougars scout team guarding Fredette and Emery in practice. It was tough to sit out, but Winder is happy with the early returns on his investment.
“I learned a lot from Jimmer and Jackson,” Winder said. “Redshirting was hard, but I couldn’t have picked a better year to do it. I learned from their competitive nature and their patience for the game. They never rushed anything.”
With Fredette and Emery gone, Winder is getting his chance to shine. The 6-foot-2-inch point guard totaled 19 points in 46 minutes of play in wins over Longwood (92-60) and Prairie View A&M (90-51) in the Chicago Challenge Invitational.
“I’m really happy for him,” coach Dave Rose said. “I know how hard he has worked. He is a really good player.”
Winder played a key role in Gorman’s back-to-back state championships in 2009 and 2010. He’s looking forward to today’s game against UNR (3-2).
“Being from Vegas, you always want to beat the North,” he said with a smile. “That never dies.”
Dave McCann is a morning news anchor on KLAS-TV (Channel 8). He hosts “True Blue” at 5 p.m. Monday on BYUtv, is the play-by-play voice for BYUtv and hosts “Cougar Countdown” at noon Wednesday on KSHP-AM (1400) and Sirius XM 143 BYUradio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.