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Poinsettia Bowl: Will BYU start Riley Nelson or James Lark at quarterback

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Brandon Doman have a choice to make on who to start at the quarterback spot against San Diego State.

Sarah Glenn

This article could be really short, because if Riley Nelson is healthy -- or even at 85 percent -- he will get the start from head coach Bronco Mendenhall. Somehow, someway Nelson can do no wrong in Mendenhall's eyes. The only time all year where a change was made came in the Boise State game where Nelson threw three interceptions in one half worth of play.

However, 99 percent of the time this is what Mendenhall does when he see's Nelson:


The truth is that if a miscommunication had not happened between Taysom Hill and the coaching staff where Hill suffered a season-ending leg injury he would likely be the starter. Nelson has been banged up as well which is why Hill started against Hawaii and Utah State.

Injuries can not be all too blame for Nelson's failures this year. Yes, he had that nasty rib injury against San Jose State, and he had a cracked vertebrae earlier in the year, but he he is a walking turnover machine.

To quote my coworker Kyle Gunther: "Nelson is a fullback playing quarterback." That is not far off since Nelson was part of the special teams unit when Jake Heaps was the starter.

Nelson is a turnover machine, locks onto one receiver, makes bad throws and tries to run over 300-pound linebackers. He tries to do too much and hate to take a sack. Just look at this from the 2011 game against TCU, a classic example of not taking a sack:

Nelson does have a few positive attributes where he can take off and make tacklers miss, and he can wow with the occasional throw. While Mendenhall feels Nelson is the best option, his biggest win is the 2011 Armed Forces Bowl victory over Tulsa. He never beat Utah, missed a wide open wide receiver for a chance to beat Notre Dame, was creamed against TCU last year and other loses to top teams.

Had BYU been able to field a competent quarterback they could very realistically be undefeated, because their defense is once in a generation defense that is a top 10 unit.

The other option at quarterback is James Lark, and the senior's only truly meaningful playing time came in the season finale against New Mexico State. Lark completed 34 of 50 passes for 384 yards and six touchdown passes, but again that is New Mexico State. Lark is the better passer, and is really what BYU quarterbacks have been in the past.

Lark did send out this tweet over the weekend:

It could just be an excited tweet in preparation for the Poinsettia Bowl, or just maybe a possible cryptic message of his playing status against San Diego State.

Another thing to consider about who to start is that San Diego State's front seven is solid and have 31 sacks on the year, which is 25th in the nation. While Nelson would be a good option to scramble out of an oncoming linebacker, but that increases the chance of him making an errant throw. While, Lark would likely take the sack or throw the ball away.

Then there is Leon McFadden who will be patrolling the secondary and likely being assigned to guarding Cody Hoffman. With Nelson forcing anything and everything to Hoffman, there could be some prime opportunities for McFadden to earn a few more interceptions.

With BYU getting back to practice on Monday, there will be much more to discuss with this bowl game, and hopefully get some answers about who will start.