If it seems like BYU quarterback Taysom Hill has been on the Cougars’ roster forever, you aren’t alone. Boise State would probably be OK if it didn’t have to see him again, either.
Hill (Highland High) saw his first significant game action with the Cougars at Albertsons Stadium in 2012. The then-true freshman came off the bench for Riley Nelson to throw for 42 yards and run for another 72 while scoring the team’s only touchdown late in the game. The subsequent two-point conversion attempt came up short, and Boise State escaped with a 7-6 win.
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The following season, the Cougars defeated the Broncos for the first time ever behind Hill’s 339 passing yards, 69 rushing yards and four total touchdowns in a 37-20 victory.
Though Tanner Mangum (Eagle High) is the BYU signal-caller most recently ingrained in the minds of Boise State fans and players, Hill has made an impact against the Broncos. And though it’s not on the forefront of his mind as the teams prepare to meet Thursday at Albertsons Stadium (8:15 p.m., ESPN), the oft-injured Hill is ready for one more shot against the team he used to watch as a kid.
“The Treasure Valley is further away from me than Pocatello, but it’s fun to go back and play in Idaho against a good program,’’ Hill said.
Hill was sensational as a sophomore when he led the Cougars past Boise State but has suffered a trio of season-ending injuries in his career and has missed the past two games against the Broncos. Two games after his coming out party against Boise State as a freshman, Hill suffered a major knee injury in a game against Utah State, though he was able to recover in time for his stellar second season. As a junior in 2014, Hill broke his leg against the Aggies in the fifth game of the year. He returned healthy for 2015, but suffered a Lisfranc injury in the season-opener against Nebraska. That allowed Mangum to work his magic against the Huskers (game-winning Hail Mary) and Boise State (late go-ahead touchdown) en route to a BYU freshman-record 23 touchdown passes.
But Mangum has taken a backseat to the now healthy fifth-year senior Hill, 26, and the Cougars have surged to three straight wins and a 4-3 overall record in 2016. Through seven contests, Hill has shown glimpses of the explosive player he once was with 1,420 passing yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions to go along with 328 rushing yards and four TDs.
“When he (runs) and needs to do it, I’ll tell you what,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “(Running back) Jamaal Williams is pretty good back there … (but) Taysom is right there with him in terms of just being a pure runner, a ball carrier.”
Boise State recruited Hill, who was the Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year and the Idaho Statesman’s 5A All-Idaho Player of the Year in 2008 after throwing for 2,269 yards and 18 touchdowns, and running for 1,491 yards and 24 scores. He signed his letter of intent with Stanford in 2009 before going on his LDS mission. Upon his return, Hill decided to head to Provo, Utah.
“(He’s) a very good player. We recruited him here. We thought that then. We think that now. He certainly has done well in that system. He’s capable of running, he’s physical, he’s throwing the ball effectively,” Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin said. “He’s a threat, every which way you look at it.”
As an Idaho native, Hill knows how much weight Boise State throws around in the national conversation. He’s seen the Broncos win Fiesta Bowls and grew up in the heyday of Boise State lore. He isn’t taking the game personally, but he is aware of everything at stake.
“They’re a good program, we’re a good program. There’s history at both places,” Hill said. “We’ve won every game here, they’ve won every game there (in my career), so I think it’s a great opportunity for us to go up and get a W.”
And as he tries to make amends for the 2012 loss in Boise, Hill is doing what he can to make sure the Cougars don’t come up short again. He is aware that this is the last time he’ll play the Broncos.
“I’m doing everything I can, so the outcome is different this time,” Hill said. “But it’s a fun place to play. It’s a great environment. It’s loud. It’s a hostile place. I love it.”
BOISE STATE NOTES
For the third time this season, junior RB Jeremy McNichols is the Mountain West offensive player of the week. ... Junior WR Cedrick Wilson played sparingly Saturday because of “a little bit of a high ankle sprain,” Harsin said. Wilson practiced fully Monday. ... Sophomore safety and special teamer Skyler Seibold is out for the season (ACL).
BYU at a glance
- Nickname: Cougars (independent)
- Location: Provo, Utah
- Head coach: Kalani Sitake (4-3, first year)
- This year: 4-3; beat Mississippi State 28-21 last week
Except for a 31-14 victory over Michigan State on Oct. 8, each game has been decided by a touchdown or less. After a season-opening victory over Arizona, BYU lost its next three before winning its past three. The Cougars have played six Power Five schools (also Mississippi State, UCLA, Utah and West Virginia) and rallied to defeat Toledo 55-53 on Sept. 30.
Sitake, formerly the defensive coordinator at Oregon State, took over for Bronco Mendenhall (now at Virginia) and has carried over similar success into the 2016 season. The Cougars are averaging 28.1 points per game this season while surrendering 25.1.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jamaal Williams, RB and Fred Warner, LB
Williams passed Harvey Unga as BYU’s all-time leading rusher (3,468 yards) in Friday’s win over Mississippi State. He is also second in the FBS in rushing yards (942) and fourth in touchdowns (10) through seven games. The senior did not face Boise State last season as he withdrew from the university for “personal reasons,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Warner is second on the Cougars with 51 total tackles. He also has four passes defended and an interception.
“He’s one of the best football players we’ve seen,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said of Warner. “That guy makes a lot of plays. So we certainly need to know where he’s at.”
Taysom Hill career stats
BYU career rankings: *-12th; #-third; ^-fourth
BYU at No. 14 BSU
- When: 8:15 p.m. MT Thursday
- Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
- TV: ESPN (Jason Benetti, Kelly Stouffer, Paul Carcaterra). ESPN can be found on Cable One (channel 133 or 1133 for HD), DirecTV (206) and Dish (140)
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
- Records: BYU 4-3 (independent); BSU 6-0 (3-0 Mountain West)
- Kickoff weather: Mid-50s, partly cloudy with light winds
- Vegas line: BSU by 7
- Series: BSU leads 4-2 (BYU won last season 35-24 in Provo)
- Last five meetings: 2015 — BYU def. BSU, 35-24; 2014 — BSU def. BYU 55-30; 2013 — BYU def. BSU 37-20; 2012 — BSU def. BYU 7-6; 2004 — BSU def. BYU 28-27.
- Years as FBS-level program: Boise State (21), BYU (92)
- Bowl appearances: Boise State 16 (11-5); BYU 34 (13-20-1)
- Number of times ranked in the AP Poll and highest ranking, according to Sports-Reference.com: Boise State — 131 weeks ranked (high of No. 2 in 2010); BYU — 242 weeks ranked (1984 national champions)
- Did you know? Of its 34 bowl games, BYU has played in either the Las Vegas or Holiday Bowl in 17 of them.