Utah State-BYU: Can QB Hill deliver in a hostile environment?
Game day is finally here -- BYU takes on Utah State at 6 p.m. tonight at sold-out Romney Stadium. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 40s, with the chance of precipitation, perhaps even snow -- so if you are going to the game, dress warmly.
And leave early, especially if you live south of Layton.
Interstate 15 will be narrowed to two lanes in each direction this weekend for construction. UDOT officials are urging drivers to use a combination of US-89 and Interstate 84 in Davis and Weber counties to avoid I-15 in Layton.
As usual, keys to the game have been offered up, analyzed and scrutinized for several days now. I don't like to get into those kinds of predictions all that much, mostly because they are rarely right. Don't believe me? Go back and read some of the keys the so-called experts were throwing out there before the Utah-BYU game. I can't remember many folks saying it would come down to red-zone scoring. But that's exactly what the difference was.
So if you have to have a key to tonight's game from me, I will go with that. The team that makes the most of its forays into scoring territory wins it.
Of course, all eyes tonight will be on the quarterbacks, Utah State's Chuckie Keeton and BYU's Taysom Hill. Which one will be more effective in the red-zone?
Keeton has the major advantage of playing at home in front of a friendly crowd. Hill has six career starts, but only one of those starts -- against Virginia in the opener -- was away from LaVell Edwards Stadium.
In last year's 6-3 BYU win, Hill played reasonably well, but could only get the Cougars into the end zone once, on a short throw to JD Falslev.
But the sophomore said he doesn't feel like he outdueled Keeton in that game, or will have to outduel the one-time Heisman Trophy candidate in this one tonight.
"I think it is hard at times to kind of [compare], because offensive schemes aren't always the same. So I am trying to be my best self inside our offensive scheme. There are some things that Chuckie does really well and there are some things that I do well. You can sit and watch any quarterback and say, 'he does that really well. He does that better than I do, and kinda say, 'I need to get to that point.' It works both ways. I think Chuckie is a good football player. He's a good quarterback and if I sat and watched film on him, I am sure there are things I could say I could [learn] from him."
Both quarterbacks are surrounded by excellent offensive weapons; Keeton's offensive line is superior to the line that will block for Hill, but is improving.
Most notably, running back Jamaal Williams and receiver Cody Hoffman are expected to play for BYU, after missing the MTSU game last Friday.
"Yeah, it is huge [to have them back]," Hills said. "Jamaal is a guy who the defense has to prepare for, and the same thing with Cody. Even if they are not getting the ball regularly, the defense has to account for them, so that's really big. So it is good to have them back, but at the same time, I was really impressed with the way Ross [Apo] played, and the way Mitch [Mathews] played. Those guys really stepped up, and I expect them to continue to do those things whether or not Cody is in the lineup."
Of course, Hill will be looking to do some damage on his own, after running for 259 yards against Texas, 99 against Utah and 165 against MTSU. Did he envision running for so many yards this season?
"Honestly, it is something that I didn't think of," Hill said. "I didn't know what would come about with this new offensive scheme. Again, I am willing to do anything I can to help the team win. Up to this point of the season, that's been a big part of it. So I am happy with the way that it has turned out. We will just continue to plug along. If that's what it is going to take, that's what we are going to do."
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae said he's not surprised by Hill's production on the ground, but he didn't really expect it, either.
"Well, I had a little gauge last year. We didn't run him in spring, live. But watching him last year in live action, there were glimpses that he's got a really good talent along those lines. But we are starting to see that as well."
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