He doesn't wear a blue and white cape, but against the Houston Cougars, he sure played like he did. Skyler Ridley was all over the field making key catches when a play was needed, including some acrobatic catches that kept drives alive. Of course, he also had the game-winning touchdown.
"Kind of the undercurrent that no one has really mentioned is if you go back and look at all the critical plays that Skyler Ridley made, I'm not sure if that's the storyline of the game," said Coach Mendenhall. "It's hard to look at it with the statistics that Taysom had, but Skyler Ridley was ... man, he made a lot of great plays."
"Well, it was good to see the ball being thrown all over the field," said Ridley. "Ross [Apo] got into the end zone twice, and Cody [Hoffman] had a great catch in the game like he always does. For me to find it at the end of the game was what the team needed at the time, but whoever was out there at the time was going to make the play. It was an exciting game that went back and forth and fun to be a part of."
True to superhero form, Ridley deflected all praise and attention from himself to others. He's the kind of player that, if he did wear a superhero's cape, he would tuck it in so no one would notice and would then just go about his business quietly behind the mask of humility.
"I try to work hard every day and just do my best," Ridley said. "Taysom is a great quarterback and he throws the ball on the money and throws it hard. He makes it difficult for defensive backs to make plays on the ball. At this point in the season the chemistry is at a good spot, the timing's at a good spot, and for the most part the offensive line gave him time to throw the ball. All of those things are a combination of [why] my role expanded a little bit, but it just happened to be in this game the ball was thrown my way a little bit more. I'm just glad I was able to make some plays."
Last year against the Cougars of Washington State, Ridley made his first appearance on the big stage, but against the Cougars of Houston he had his coming-out party. He caught seven passes, the same number as Cody Hoffman, for 90 yards. His receptions converted multiple first downs and even set up scoring opportunities.
"I just think there were more passing attempts more than anything," Ridley said. "Ross was a little banged up in the second half so the rotation didn't happen as often. So, I was out there longer. Usually we rotate about four or five plays, but there were a few drives where I was out there a little long, so those type of things played a role."
Sure, the opportunities might have increased, but that doesn't ensure that a receiver will be more involved. He still has to run great routes, find gaps in the seams, and get open on time in order for such opportunities to be had. Ridley did just that throughout the game against a very athletic Houston secondary.
"Well, we just got open and they played soft coverage," said Ridley, once again taking no credit for his part. "We were just able to find open windows.
"You know, Taysom is the type of guy who doesn't hold grudges against you if you drop a ball or run the wrong route. He's not going to … say, 'You know, I'm not throwing your way anymore because you did this or that.' He always stays positive and that helps us respond to do our best."
Late in the game when a play was badly needed, Ridley heeded the call. BYU was down by five points with time running out in the fourth quarter. With just a minute and eight seconds left on the clock, Ridley scored an 11-yard touchdown to give BYU the one-point lead.
"It's hard to describe," Ridley said with a smile. "You know, falling into the end zone knowing the situation, it was a pretty special experience to be the guy who made the play at the end of the game and celebrate with my team. Then for Alani [Fua] to seal the deal with that pick, it was an amazing night out there in Houston."
Just after Ridley scored the final touchdown, Hill and his fellow Cougars rushed over to celebrate with him in hero-like fashion. Seeing the faces of his players, and hearing of their happiness upon snatching victory from the hands of defeat, even brought a smile to the often calm and stoic face of Coach Mendenhall.
"I love hearing that," joked Mendenhall, who broke character for just a moment. "I mean, at some point I might even get to that point, but they're certainly, as they should be, farther beyond and kind of hopefully the next tier up from their coaches."
When it comes to the many accomplishments of his players, Coach Mendenhall has a lot to be proud of. And when it comes to the accomplishments of Ridley, there's no question mark tied to how proud he really is.