It happened one day after BYU launched his Heisman Trophy campaign. 24 hours after putting up a dazzling display of impressive numbers and graphics on the Taysom4.com Web site, its quarterback on display, or Taysom Hill, left the game against Utah State in the second quarter–never to return.
The diagnosis: a fractured left leg, hereby ending his junior season, a season that had so much promise to begin with and now, well, not so much. Drawing comparisons to Tim Tebow, no less, Hill set out before the rivalry game on Fri. Oct. 3 with one goal: win and continue BYU’s march towards a possible date in the College Football Playoff.
He seemed well on his way to doing that early in the game, as he completed eight of his first 11 passes for 99 yards and one touchdown. His downfall came on a routine roll out in the second quarter as he was sandwiched between two Utah State Aggies Football players who came down awkwardly on his left leg.
The knee brace that held his already-beleaguered but still-bionic left leg in place finally gave way to all the thumping and pounding it took on 86 rushing attempts in four games this year–and hundreds last year. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall had no answer at QB after Hill got hurt, and so the No. 18 Cougars lost to the Aggies, 35-20, in a stunner.
“Really, there wasn’t much from an offensive perspective [after Hill went down]. We trained [backup QB] Christian Stewart in the same plan as what Taysom had,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said post-game. “The execution now has to be at a higher level because of Taysom’s ability to create and change things to go the distance. Everything within our offensive system will now have to be executed at a higher level.”
It wasn’t the first time Hill went down against Utah State in a season-ending pile of broken human bones and scratched Y helmet and royal blue jersey rubbed against the turf. Two years ago, in the same stadium, Hill ventured outside containment–only to find Aggie jerseys everywhere and no relief in sight as he tore his ACL on a collision.
This much is clear: whenever BYU plays Utah State at LaVell Edwards Stadium, Hill might as well be placed in a protective bubble–and unleashed on the opposition every game thereafter. Because against the Aggies, in this rivalry, and in Provo, Hill is as good as a marked man–a player Utah State knows it must stop.
As for what happens now, nobody is sure. Hill is out for the rest of this season–yet he’s only a junior and so he’ll still have one more year of eligibility–and a rematch is most certainly in the plans for next year.
After Hill hurt his knee in 2012 in that rendition of the battle for the Old Wagon Wheel, he returned to lead his Cougars to a win on the same night in October 2013 that Aggie QB Chuckie Keeton went down with tears in his ACL and MCL.
So a return is entirely possible for Hill–it’s just the last thing anyone at BYU is thinking about right now, with a trip to UCF coming up later next week. At 4-1, nobody is talking about BYU being in any College Football Playoff conversation or being nationally ranked and the Hill for Heisman talk, well, that’s better left to next year.
For the BYU football program on the whole, you might as well start talking about next year–because this year became a lot more cloudy on many fronts. The Cougars–and new QB Stewart–threw for well under 200 yards and chucked three interceptions on 10-of-29 passing attempts, and only ran for 154 yards.
Even on a picture-perfect Friday evening in Provo, where a sellout crowd came to honor outspoken No. 9 Jim McMahon’s jersey retirement, they went home just as shocked by a visiting Utah State team that outplayed and out-coached BYU in every facet, a team that hadn’t won in Provo since 1978.