Provo • There was a little bit of anger in the eyes of BYU receiver JD Falslev in the interview room after the Cougars crushed Middle Tennessee State 37-10 on Friday night, and not just because the reliable senior fumbled punts three times, losing two.
After fielding a question about how the receivers stepped up with close to a mistake-free game in the absence of suspended superstar Cody Hoffman, Falslev veered sharply to an impassioned defense of quarterback Taysom Hill.
The sophomore who entered the game having completed just 35 percent of his passes was uncommonly sharp against the Blue Raiders, completing 14 of 19 passes for 177 yards. He made one bad throw, missing an open Skyler Ridley; an interception was not his fault.
“The whole throwing thing isn’t necessarily confidence with Taysom,” said Falslev, who partially redeemed himself with a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown. “I think what everybody gets on Taysom about is his confidence. … If you guys watch the film, it is the receivers, it is the linemen, it is the running backs, the tight ends. First and foremost, we got to protect so he can throw. And then we got to catch the stinking football. That is what it comes down to. It is not a confidence issue.
“And it is hard as a teammate to see him get so much blame for it, when it is not his fault,” Falslev continued. “Plain and simple, guys gotta catch the football. Guys gotta block. And then everything else is easy. It is just like the punt return. When guys do their job, it makes everything easy.”
Hill completed his first five passes and was 8 of 9 in the first half. He finished with a 141.4 passing efficiency rating, which bumped him to 83.9 for the season and may lift him out of last place in the country in that category when the new NCAA statistics are released Sunday morning.
“I thought our passing game was really good,” Hill said. “I think that is traditional BYU football. We threw the ball on first and second down, and we avoided third-and-longs, which kept the defense off-balance. The defensive line wasn’t able to pin their ears back and rush, and they weren’t able to drop eight, because we were in third-and-short. So I think that was the difference in the game.”
Of course, that was against a porous MTSU defense. Utah State’s defense, which figures to be much more stout, awaits Hill and the Cougars on Friday at 6 p.m. in Logan.
After completing just 18 of 48 passes against Utah, Hill said his confidence has never wavered, and that he hasn’t worried for a single second about the criticism directed his way.
“Look, I am comfortable and confident with my ability to throw the ball and the receivers’ [ability] to catch it,” Hill said. “I think coach [Robert] Anae did a great job in his play-calling tonight. That was our focus: let’s throw the ball early; let’s get some easy completions in. Middle Tennessee State continued to give it to us, and we continued to take it. Coach Anae called a great game, and we executed well.”
Ross Apo led the receiving corps with four catches for 38 yards, while Mitch Mathews hauled in three passes for 47 yards, including a back-shoulder throw from Hill that went for 31. Two more weapons — Hoffman and running back Jamaal Williams (concussion) — will likely be back to test the Aggies (3-2).
Mendenhall confirmed Friday night that Hoffman’s suspension will last just one game.
“In working with the university, it is one game at this point,” Mendenhall said. “I have other standards for him as well that he will have to meet, or there could be another suspension if those standards aren’t met in the next four weeks. Those are private, but that’s where it is.”
Taysom Hill vs. MTSU
Comp.-Att.-Int. Yds TDs Rush Yds TDs
14-19-1 177 0 18 165 2