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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

Dick Harmon: Taysom Hill steals center stage in BYU's win over UConn

By Dick Harmon, Deseret News

Published: Sat, Aug. 30 3:42 p.m. MDT

 BYU quarterback Taysom Hill (4) runs past BYU offensive linesman Tejan Koroma (56) and Connecticut Huskies defensive tackle Julian Campenni (90) during a football game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014.

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill (4) runs past BYU offensive linesman Tejan Koroma (56) and Connecticut Huskies defensive tackle Julian Campenni (90) during a football game at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014.

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Taysom Hill kind of glided into the end zone on his final touchdown in a convincing win over UConn at Rentschler Field Friday night.

He made it look easy, breaking out a little power, a spurt of speed, a stutter step here and cutback there. It was so late in the game and the UConn Husky defense looked like they’d absolutely had enough of Hill.

It was as if Hill was toying with the home team on that final drive that he capped by that 26-yard highlight run. Everyone in the stadium knew once he crossed the line of scrimmage, he’d gallop to a touchdown. With 4:06 to play, it was inevitable as the impending traffic jam in the parking lots.

A year ago in Charlottesville, Hill struggled with accuracy and missed his big target, suspended receiver Cody Hoffman, and although it appeared the Cougars would win anyway, a late interception led to a come-from-behind Virginia winning score.

This time on the East Coast, Hill took care of business. His passes were strikes. He confidently cut apart UConn’s defense, completing eight of his first nine passes. At the half, he had completed 85 percent of them, 17 of 20 with two obvious throw aways just to get rid of the ball. He targeted nine different receivers, led by junior Mitch Matthews, who had five catches for 62 yards.

Hill completed an impressive 28 of 36 for 308 yards and touchdown passes to Mathews, Terren Houke and Adam Hine. He made it look easy. For Matthews, it was a career-high night in catches in a game. He also found Paul Lasike, Colby Pearson, Jordan Leslie, Mitch Juergens and Devin Mahina. Only one targeted receiver dropped a pass.

Hill had a pass efficiency rating of 177.14 on the night. His completion percentage was 77.7 percent.

Opposite of what Texas might do next week, UConn elected to drop back in coverage and often sent only three pass rushers. Hill had plenty of time to look over the field, often throwing both designed passes off the run and passing when breaking out of the pocket. His eyes were downfield searching and his touch was spot on. He was not sacked.

Hill rushed 12 times for 98 yards and had runs of 7, 8 and 15 called back on penalties. It was easily a 400-yard total offense game.

“We weren’t as clean as we wanted to be but we did a lot of really good things we can build off of,” said Hill.

It was a calvacade of penalty flags Friday. BYU took first possession and scored, but in the first nine minutes of the game there were eight penalties. The Cougars had 15 flags for 150 yards and UConn had 8 for 90.

Plus, two BYU turnovers led directly to UConn’s point total.

“He had a good first game running, throwing it and extending it with his legs and he had that one touchdown to Terren Houk on a scramble,” said BYU quarterback coach Jason Beck.

“Hopefully we can clean things up,” he said. “They tried dropping eight, then went to cover two to see how he’d handle it. The most pleasing thing I liked with Taysom is how fast we started despite some adversity (penalties), we overcame and got down for that first score.”

But the sloppiness of the penalties loomed big in the minds of Beck and the rest of the staff. “We’ve got to go look at the film,” said offensive line coach Garrett Tujague. “We have to see what all that was about out there.”

UConn was improved and kept on task, but this Husky team is nothing what the Cougars expect in Austin next Saturday when the Longhorns are sure to be testy and anxious for revenge on the loss in Provo a year ago that lead to UT coaching changes.

In that regard, Hill and the rest of this squad have plenty to get criticized over in the film room and practice field in coming days.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said receivers coach Guy Holliday.

But for the moment Friday, the night certainly belonged to Hill.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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1. Cosmo's Cousin
Holladay, UT,
Aug. 29, 2014

BYU could get the Heisman back to Provo this year. I watched alot of football games this week and Hill is by far the best QB.

BYU will probably run the table this year but the BCS snobs won't let us into the playoff because they're afraid.

bYU would for sure beat Utah if they played this year!

2. Brio
Alpine, UT,
Aug. 30, 2014

UConn is a better team than Virginia was last year. As such, it seems pretty obvious that BYU is notably better this year than last. If they are able to cleanup the excessive number of penalties, then this could turn into an exceptional year that will be a lot of fun.

After watching both Utah's and BYU's opening season games, it really makes me wish Utah hadn't got nervous and backed out of their game this year and next. Had they played, it would've forced Ute fans to be very quiet for at least a year and probably at least two. From the initial games, there doesn't appear to be much doubt. As the season progresses, there will be even less.

The game next week against Texas should prove to be very interesting.

3. Cougsndawgs
West Point , UT,
Aug. 30, 2014

Cosmo's Cousin:
While I agree that Hill had a very nice game, did you happen to catch Kenny Hill's performance (TAMU) vs South Carolina? I'd say objectively that is easily the best performance by a QB so far this weekend. Still a lot of football to be played before the weekend is through but it will be tough to top that performance.

As for running the table there's certainly that possibility but only if BYU cleans up some serious issues on special teams and defense...though I think getting our starting CBs back and our faster more athletic RB & WR back will help greatly.

And why bring Utah into the conversation? BYU doesn't play them so there's no way to know and therefore no reason to speculate or care about how BYU would do against them.

4. Herbert Gravy
Salinas, CA,
Aug. 30, 2014

@Cousin:

WAY too early to start talking about "running the table". Let's just take it one game at a time and see what happens. Remember, ALL of the games will actually be decided an a football field. I like your enthusiasm but highly recommend a measure of caution.

5. eastcoastcoug
Danbury, CT,
Aug. 30, 2014

It was a decent showing for a first game far away from home. Hill was certainly a bright spot and was so hard to catch. His passing was light years better than a year ago. We have a great bunch of receivers if Hill can find them and get them the ball. I'm still concerned about the ability of our line on both offense and defense. There were a lot of missed tackles that led to runs deeper into our secondary. Special teams was also a huge concern - the kicking game was the worst.

Texas will be ready for revenge and will be far better athletically. You can bet they'll be rushing and putting more pressure on Hill and our defense had better be tighter than it was last night.