BYU's Taysom Hill goes through, around and over the defense

The Cougar quarterback from Pocatello can beat opponents with power, speed ... and now his arm.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comOctober 23, 2013 

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill ran for 165 yards against Middle Tennessee last month, and he has a 259-yard rushing effort against Texas to his credit. Before Saturday’s 417-yard passing outburst against Houston, Hill’s best effort through the air was 278 yards against Utah State.

RICK BOWMER — The Associated Press

  • QB GEMS

    Three Idahoans have started a majority of their team's games this season in the FBS, and each has made an impact.

    Taysom Hill, So., BYU (Highland High): Leads the Cougars with 772 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, has completed 119-of-235 passes for 1,680 yards with nine TDs and eight INTs.

    Taylor Kelly, Jr., Arizona State (Eagle): Has completed 173-of-279 passes for 2,236 yards with 18 TDs and seven INTs for the Sun Devils, coming off a 53-24 win over Washington. He also has 249 rushing yards and three TDs.

    Chad Chalich, RFr., Idaho (Coeur d’Alene): Led Idaho with 212 yards rushing before injuring his shoulder Oct. 12 at Arkansas State. Has completed 113-of-184 passes for 1,224 yards with five TDs and three INTs.

Being labeled a “dual-threat” quarterback implies being able to frustrate a defense via the ground and the air.

BYU sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill is regarded as a dual-threat, since his ability to run the ball is well known, but his passing was seen as a secondary skill.

Until now.

Hill became the seventh quarterback in FBS history to throw for 400 yards and rush for more than 100 in a single game Saturday when he gained 417 passing and 128 rushing in a 47-46 win at Houston. It was Hill’s first time reaching 300 yards through the air, let alone 400.

“For me personally, it was really nice to come out and do that,” said Hill, a 2009 graduate of Pocatello’s Highland High. “It wasn’t anything I was surprised with. I knew our offensive unit had the potential to do those things.”

Though he plays at a school known for putting up wild numbers through the air, Hill’s 29-of-44 effort was BYU’s first 400-yard game against an FBS opponent since Sept. 15, 2007 against Tulsa.

“The players and Taysom know what’s happening. They’re getting better and better,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday, and called Hill’s game Saturday “an amazing performance.”

As a freshman last year, cycling between backup and starter before a season-ending injury midway through the season, Hill completed 59 percent of his passes (42-of-71). In his first three games this season, he completed 35 percent (40-of-114) for 564 yards with one TD and three interceptions.

Changes needed to be made, and were.

In the past four games, Hill is 79-of-121 (65.3 percent) for 1,116 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions.

“Our passing concepts have changed a little bit. We’ve got in a few different schemes and threw out a few that hadn’t been successful for us,” Hill said. “We (also) put in things that allowed my receivers and I to have better timing.”

Each of the past five games, Hill’s passer efficiency rating has improved, from 68.6 against Texas on Sept. 7 to 161.88 against Houston.

“They’ve created a whole system around him and his strengths, and he looks like he’s a better thrower than he was last year,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said.

While he progresses as a passer, running the ball remains Hill’s calling card.

His 772 yards rushing lead the team, and are No. 2 among all FBS quarterbacks. Boise State cornerback Bryan Douglas noted the 6-foot-2, 221-pound Hill is “about Jay Ajayi’s size,” referencing Boise State’s 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore running back. They also share a similar desire to run over defenders.

“He’s a warrior,” Petersen said. “He carries the ball like a running back.”

After piloting the BYU offense to an FBS-record-tying 115 plays against Houston, throwing 44 times, rushing 34 times and being sacked eight times, Hill said he was still “stiff and sore” earlier this week. A short week would seemingly be the last thing he needs, but facing the Broncos, from his home state, makes it a non-issue.

“It does start to take a toll on everybody, but I’m willing to do what it takes to win the football game,” Hill said. “I want to beat Boise State. I want to win.”

Just as Hill and the Cougars are up for the challenge of facing the Broncos on Friday, Boise State’s defense is eager to face a quarterback who runs like a tailback, and is suddenly just as big of a threat as a passer.

“I think his running kind of gives people a blind eye to what he can do when he puts the ball in the air,” Douglas said. “That guy has a strong arm.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420;Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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