Before BYU football fans get too confident about the Cougars taking on No. 10-ranked Oregon State on Saturday (1:30 p.m., ABC) with the Beavers missing their starting quarterback, there are a few names they might want to remember:
Zac Stoudt, Ole Miss; Case McCoy, Texas; Brett Ratliff, Utah; Jeff Ballard, TCU.
Those are just a few of the backup quarterbacks that have come in replacing starters in games against BYU and enjoyed at least some success.
That’s why the Cougar players and coaches are expecting Oregon State to play well, even though sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion will be sidelined due to a knee injury and will be replaced by junior Cody Vaz, who hasn't thrown a pass in a game since 2010.
"This is Division I football, so I feel to an extent everyone can play," said BYU senior cornerback Preston Hadley. "You have to be prepared for everything they are going to throw at you. I don’t know anything about their backup quarterback but I know Coach (Bronco) Mendenhall is going to have us ready."
Mendenhall said that the Beavers run their schemes fairly successfully no matter who is in the game. The question becomes what adjustments will they make when the team takes the field with Vaz at the helm.
"They have a good offensive system in place that is very consistent from year to year," Mendenhall said. "How that will be tailored all of a sudden a new quarterback, I’m not certain. We’ll prepare for what we know and then adjust to what we don’t know or what we see on game day. That’s really the best we can do."
Vaz will have the advantage of throwing to a couple of very talented wide receivers in senior Markus Wheaton and sophomore Brandin Cooks, guys Hadley calls the best wideouts BYU has faced this season.
"They are fast, quick and really good after the catch," Mendenhall said. "There are a lot of quick throws, where they can make a move after the catch, then a lot of deep throws. They are fast. 340 yards per game is a lot for a passing offense."
Hadley said that no matter how quick Vaz gets the ball out of his hand, he's going to have to be ready to take a hit.
"We’re going to get after him, so this guy is going to get hit," the senior said. "That makes life a lot easier for the secondary. We’re going to trust in our game plan and our scheme that we’re going to be prepared."
Even though the pass game has been very effective for Oregon State this fall, Mendenhall thinks the Beavers and specifically running back Storm Woods are very capable at running the ball as well.
They run it well, when they chose to," Mendenhall said. "But they have such good weapons on the outside and had such a nice throwing quarterback they could score more points this way. What they do this week, I’m not sure. The scheme is good enough to carry them if they want to run it."
It won't be easy against BYU's top-ranked rush defense. The front seven for the Cougars have allowed opponents to average less than two yards per carry — as well as keeping the excitement on those plays away from the secondary, according to Hadley.
"In the run, it stinks," Hadley said. "We get no action. The run never gets to us. It’s a good thing, I guess, but we don’t want to fall asleep."
The Beavers aren't the only team who lost a quarterback to a knee injury this week. BYU lost freshman QB Taysom Hill to the same ailment, but the Cougars have senior starter Riley Nelson getting back close to full strength after he missed time with back problems.
The BYU coaches and players don't expect the senior to change his game after being hurt.
"Riley Nelson will be Riley Nelson," said Cougar junior wide receiver JD Falslev. "He’s a heck of an athlete and he’s a fighter. That’s what we all love about him and pull for because he’s a guy that will lead by example. To have that on the field is a big plus for us."
BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said he thinks focus will be the most important key for Nelson as he makes his return.
"His scrambling and moving around, we’re not going to take that away because it makes him hard to defend," Doman said. "But what made it hard on him was his ability to focus in on the pass game and make the decisions he needed to make. We haven’t had to throw it significantly in the past couple of weeks, but we’re going to need to rely on it heavily this week."
“The thing about it is they are a drop-eight defensive team, a blitz team, a man-to-man team, so we have to be ready for every facet of their game and we will be." — JD Falslev
Some of that will be because Oregon State brings a very good front line that has gotten a lot better against the run than it was in 2011.
"I would probably say this is the most physical front we’ve faced yet this year, with Utah being right there," Doman said. "We’ve made some changes up front offensively that have made us better, but they’ve done a great job the last two weeks. They have two or three defensive linemen that are pretty good."
The Beavers also have senior cornerback Jordan Poyer, who picked off three passes in last week’s win over Washington State and has four interceptions total.
Cougar fans might remember how dangerous Poyer is, since he grabbed a Riley Nelson pass and took it to the end zone in last year’s 38-28 Cougar win in Corvallis, Ore.
“Their defense is good,” Falslev said. “They have very good athletes that could cause some disruption. We’re scouting them out, finding out who those guys are.
“The thing about it is they are a drop-eight defensive team, a blitz team, a man-to-man team, so we have to be ready for every facet of their game and we will be. We have to worry about what we can control. They are going to play their game, we’re going to play ours and we’re going to do the best we can.”
With BYU hoping to get back on the national radar after the two narrow losses in September, a win over an undefeated, Top-10 opponent would be a big step forward.
“Five wins is better than four, but we can still play better,” Mendenhall said. “It just so happens that it is a good opponent that is undefeated coming in and the next opportunity while we are gaining some momentum. I haven’t addressed the other parts. It’s now just what do we do to get better. I think they already know all of that stuff, they just don’t talk about it.”
Like it or not, however, the loss of Mannion for Oregon State could make a Cougar upset less dramatic.
“It stinks that their starter isn’t going to be playing because we want to be able to beat them with their best in,” Hadley said. “It will be fun. We’re up for the challenge. They’ve gotten a lot better since last year but I think we’ve gotten a lot better too. It should be a battle.”
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or email@example.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.