PROVO, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - There have been moments of greatness, especially on defense, but there have also been some staggering losses. All in all, it's been a very strange season at BYU.
"It's been a roller coaster for sure," said linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "It's disappointing that we didn't live up to the potential that we have. Our record doesn't show how good our team is, which is a bummer."
The 6-5 Cougars head to New Mexico State this Saturday before taking on a team from the Mountain West Conference December 20th in the Poinsettia Bowl.
"It's been a tough and hard fought season," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "It's kind of been a test of resiliency. There have been so many games where it's a battle right down to the wire. So, I think it's just been really a challenging test for us."
BYU has had impressive wins over Washington State, Utah State and Georgia Tech, but the Cougars have fallen short in their biggest challenges of the season against the likes of Utah, Boise State, Oregon State and Notre Dame. Their most damaging loss was to San Jose State this past weekend.
Perhaps the biggest shame is that this is one of the best defenses in BYU history. The Cougars are ranked third in the nation, giving up just 273 yards per game. So, naturally most of the blame is going to fall on the BYU offense, namely quarterback Riley Nelson.
"Whether it's right or not, or justified, it's part of the job being the quarterback at BYU," said offensive coordinator Brandon Doman, a former Cougar quarterback himself. "But he shouldn't take all the blame, no way."
Nelson, who was benched earlier this season in favor of Taysom Hill, has battled through numerous injuries and may not be able to play this weekend because of a rib injury.
"When you get knocked out, you have to choose to get up," Doman said. "And he has gotten up every single time, and I'll love him for that forever."
Even though the Cougars had much higher aspirations this season, with two victories in their final two games, they feel they will be able to salvage their season.
"Losses mostly try to divide teams from coming together," said running back Jamaal Williams, who has set BYU freshman records with 682 yards and 11 touchdowns. "But, we're taking these losses to become a stronger unit. I think that we can finish off this season great if we can win these last two games."