Sure, Chuckie Keeton of Utah State deserves consideration for the Heisman Trophy. But, Taysom Hill of BYU does too, that little No. 4 engine that could with his knee brace clanking as he rumbles–especially after his performance on Fri. Aug. 29 in a 35-10 BYU win at UConn.
Missing starting running back Jamaal Williams to an honor code violation, BYU had to find ways to get yardage on the ground without one of its leading rushers. It wasted little time in doing so, getting Williams’ replacement, Paul Lasike involved early and often.
Hill was the big story in this one though. Often you hear of a quarterback getting too much of the credit–but in this game, Hill deserved all the credit in the world for BYU’s victory.
Directly responsible for all six BYU scores, Hill had accomplices–but he was the mastermind behind the Cougars’ operation in Connecticut. He was clinical in his calculation, and he was sinister in carrying out his objectives.
Take BYU’s first drive. Between Lasike and his thunderous rumblings–and Hill’s scrambling ability–BYU gobbled up both time and space in a 15-play, 75-yard clock consuming opening touchdown drive lasting five minutes.
Lasike was the Cougars’ bread and Hill was the butter on top as the duo combined for 49 rushing yards of the 75 first drive yards alone. Hill consummated this clock-eating snack by running for seven yards on one play, 10 on another, eight yards and three on yet another on the opening drive–before turning on the burners after his pass protection broke down for a 7-yard run and hearty breakfast TD to cap it off.
With BYU up 7-0, Hill and his teammates were hardly through. A fumble by UConn at its own 19 yard line gave BYU prime real estate in hostile territory. Even north Utah County realtors selling multi-million dollar homes overlooking the temple would have been jealous of how quickly BYU closed the deal on its second drive.
It took all of 15 seconds off the play clock after its first TD for BYU to go up 14-0 after the PAT. Hill dropped back in play action as he rifled a pass into a streaking wide receiver Mitch Mathews towards the post for a score.
BYU’s offense kind of sputtered for the rest of the first quarter–yet Hill had already completed eight of the nine passes he attempted and ran for 63 yards.
Penalties were a killer for BYU all night long, preventing the Cougars from putting this game away early. In all, BYU was whistled for 15 for 150 yards. Despite having this bugaboo affect BYU’s last two drives of the first quarter, Hill brought the Cougars out and they responded.
With good field position at the UConn 46, BYU and Hill went to work, hitting running back Algernon Brown–little used last year–on a 25-yard pass play. After an incomplete pass, Hill handed off to Brown, who scampered for a 14-yard gain.
Hill handed off to Brown on the next play–but UConn would not be fooled the third time, stuffing Brown at the 7.
Facing 2nd down and goal, Hill sold yet another handoff to Brown like a multi-million dollar real estate broker, yanking the ball from Brown’s chest as the UConn defense converged on him. Hill rolled right, finding running back Adam Hine in the flat. Hine walked into the end zone for a 21-0 lead after the PAT.
With nine minutes to go in the first half, BYU was firmly back in control. Or so it seemed–until the Cougars got the ball back with 6:45 to play in the half. After Hill got outside UConn’s contain defense and gained 11 yards–pushing his rushing total up to 76 for the game–he was sacked for a 1-yard loss at the BYU 29.
Undeterred, Hill went back to work on the next play–handing the ball off to Lasike on a draw play for nine yards. One short pass completion later and the ball at the UConn 49, disaster struck as Matthews caught a ball in the flat–then fumbled. UConn pounced on the ball and two minutes and 52 yards later, it was finally on the board.
Ahead 21-7, BYU then commenced its most impressive drive of the game as the first half wound to a close. Hill was a surgeon, completing short, sharp passes to two receivers–giving the Cougars great field possession at the 50.
Hill then handed off to Brown, who gashed UConn’s line for a tough 3-yard gain, softening the defense for another draw play to Lasike, who burst through for a 12-yard gain. Knowing UConn was probably coming–and it was–Hill dropped back in shotgun formation on the next play.
He evaded two UConn tacklers as he rolled left, finding wide receiver Terenn Houk running towards the sideline. Against his body, Hill tossed a ball into Houk–and Houk did the rest, outrunning UConn defenders inside the 5-yard line, where he took flight inside the pylon, diving in for the 36-yard pass reception for a touchdown.
BYU and Hill would get one more touchdown on the evening. Hill himself would run for 97 yards on 12 carries and two scores, while throwing for 308 yards on 28-of-36 passing attempts and three more TD’s.
While BYU did struggle in the second half, Hill’s performance in the first 30 minutes more than sealed the easy 35-10 win. The junior from Pocatello would cap the game late on with a 26-yard touchdown run in the final minutes–but with Williams out until next week’s clash at Texas, Hill got the brunt of the carries and a complete workout on offense in the run and throw games.
Friday’s game at UConn is what it was: a pre-season game against a team that hardly won last season and has a new coach and system–but it’s also a game where BYU desperately needed to see what it could do with Hill at the controls.
“It’s huge for us and gives us a lot of momentum heading into Texas, and that environment will be a little bit different. It is a challenge we are excited for and up for,” Hill said post-game. “Looking at tonight, we weren’t as clean as we wanted to be but we did a lot of really good things we can build off. Really encouraged. If we continue to play and clean up the penalties, we can be a really good football team.”
For Hill though, the answer is clear enough. His body of work on Friday means you can be sure to include him in any Heisman conversation. If he does something similar at Texas next week, he should be in your top 5 candidates going forward.