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Provo • All things considered, BYU quarterback Riley Nelson says he would rather face high-profile opponents with glossy records week in and week out, even if the Cougars technically have yet to qualify for a bowl game.

He won't get his wish this week, however.

After a much-needed bye last week presumably helped the 5-4 Cougars heal up a bit, they play host to 1-8 Idaho on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m., ESPNU). The Vandals, who lost 42-7 to BYU last year in Provo, are a mess again this year.

Playing with backup quarterback Logan Bushnell on Saturday in Moscow because starter Dominique Blackman had been removed from the team, Idaho lost 42-13 to San Jose State in the debut of interim coach Jason Gesser. The former Washington State and Utah Blaze quarterback took over for Robb Akey, who was fired after the 70-28 loss at Louisiana Tech.

Actually, Idaho was competitive against the 7-2 Spartans, who will host BYU on Nov. 17. Idaho took an early 7-0 lead and trailed just 14-13 midway through the third quarter before SJSU QB David Fales heated up.

The Vandals' only win came against BYU's Nov. 24 opponent, New Mexico State, a 26-18 breakthrough on Oct. 6.

"Even though these teams may not be having the seasons they would like, and their record doesn't look like how they probably want it, or, to be honest, how we want it — because we want to play good teams and have as stiff of competition as we can every week — you still have to go out and worry about you, and what you can do," Nelson said. "... You really have to go out there and treat it like any other game and perform like you know how to perform."

It will be the final home game for Nelson and a couple dozen or so other seniors who started the season with expectations of having only one or two losses at this juncture, but captains such as Nelson and linebacker Brandon Ogletree said last week they haven't started to get nostalgic because there will be at least two, probably three more games to play.

The seniors will receive blankets in a ceremony, which could happen around midnight if school officials follow their traditional course for honoring the outgoing players after the game, rather than before, when the crowd is still around.

"I think they might change it to us getting them before the game," Ogletree said. "I don't know, and I really could not care less. ... I don't care if they mail it to me in 10 years. I have no care in the world regarding it."

As for Nelson, he hinted last week that fellow senior QB James Lark could see a lot of action against the Vandals, because Nelson is banged up a bit.

"The [lower] back is fine, but I have some upper spine issues," he said. "My knees have kind of ... nagging soreness. Not really much you can do for it, other than rest. .... When I hurt my back I had to do a lot of overcompensating to still try and be able to throw the ball, and I got into some bad habits.

"So I am trying to break those and get back to the way I was throwing the ball in fall camp at the beginning of the season."

drew@sltrib.comTwitter: @drewjay —

Idaho at BYU

P Saturday, 8:15 p.m.


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