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BYU football: Hill hauls Cougars to wins, but there's a cost

Published October 22, 2013 11:54 pm

The Cougars tied the FBS record for offensive plays in their win at Houston.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • His lip was bloodied, most of his body was sore and stiff after being sacked eight times and his neck ached after getting yanked to the ground by his facemask,

But BYU quarterback Taysom Hill said Saturday's 47-46 win over Houston probably was the most fun he's ever had on a football field.

Yeah, it is always fun until somebody gets hurt.

Hill amazingly came out of the game mostly unscathed, and he reported for practice Monday none the worse for the wear, although he admitted to being "really sore" when he woke up Sunday morning and still "stiff and sore" at the beginning of practice.

"You can imagine how I felt after a game like that," he said. "And that's how it was ... and then I started running and going through various things [at practice], and my body started to loosen up, and I felt pretty good toward the end."

The question still has to be asked: Can Hill continue to take that kind of pounding and carry the workload like he did against Houston without getting hurt?

The question is even more relevant this week because BYU (5-2) will face a Boise State (5-2) team Friday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (6 p.m., ESPN) that lost its starting quarterback, Joe Southwick, to a fractured ankle in the first quarter of its 34-17 win over Nevada. Redshirt junior Grant Hedrick relieved Southwick and played well in rallying the Broncos to their third straight win.

"Yeah [Hill's workload is a concern]," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday. "Actually, I would like to see the rest of the execution alleviate that to some degree. And again, it is kind of a work in progress to this point. He's so good running it, and the game was really, really close. So fortunately for us, we had him and he carried it maybe more than we anticipated."

The numbers almost were unimaginable. BYU ran 115 plays with the Hill at the helm, which tied an FBS record. He carried the ball past the line of scrimmage 26 times for 194 yards, was sacked eight times for a loss of 66 yards, which cut into his rushing total, and threw the ball 44 times. Then there was the body slam via facemask by Houston's Jeremiah Farley, an act that looked so vicious that BYU coaches screamed for an ejection.

"Yeah, I was fired up when that happened. I know all of us were pretty fired up," BYU defensive back Mike Hague said. "The thing about Taysom is he is super-tough. ... But yeah, I don't know if he can carry the ball 34 times a game. I mean, if there is one guy who can do it, it is Taysom Hill. He's just a load. I pray that he stays healthy."

If he doesn't stay healthy, the Cougars will be in a world of hurt. There's no other quarterback on the roster who can run offensive coordinator Robert Anae's demanding "go hard, go fast" offense close to as well as Hill has been running it. And there isn't a quarterback who is as versatile as the athlete from Pocatello, Idaho, who originally committed to play for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.

Coaches are playing with fire, and even Hill knows it. Asked if his body can hold up to running more than 100 plays a game again, especially after a short week like this one, he replied, "For now it will. But I don't know [long term]. It does start to take a toll on everybody. But again, I am willing to do what it takes to win the football game."

And it took everything he had to hand Houston its first loss. Hill became the first quarterback in school history to run for more than 100 and throw for more than 400 yards in the same game, and he's only the seventh in NCAA history.

The Herculean effort came behind an offensive line that is improving weekly but still quite a bit below par by BYU standards. Hill has been sacked 22 times. By comparison, BYU's above-average defense, led by All-American linebacker and sackmaster Kyle Van Noy, who already has had more sacks this season than in his other three seasons combined, has posted only 12 sacks in seven games.

"I mean, we ran 115 plays, but we can't give up that many sacks," Hill said. "Part of that is on me, part of that is on the guys around me. So we need to clean that up and have a better focus going forward into Boise State."

Mendenhall acknowledged that losing star running back Jamaal Williams in the third quarter to a hip pointer contributed to Hill's excessive workload, but the coach added, "when it comes down to it, you want your best players with the ball." He also was troubled by the sacks, but he said it comes with the territory.

The sacks "are big, considering the negative yards and the extra toll it takes on Taysom," Mendenhall said. "When you throw it as many times as we are throwing it, protection is going to be tested. And over 115 plays ... the number of plays has exceeded our execution, if you call 47 points and all those yards not good enough execution. So I would like no sacks, but it is kind of a tradeoff right now."

This week, BYU hopes it is not trading wins for a healthy quarterback.

drew@sltrib.com

Taysom Hill against Houston

• Ran 115 plays from scrimmage to tie an FBS record

• Carried the ball 26 times on non-sacks for 194 yards

• Sacked eight times for a loss of 66 yards

• Completed 29 of 44 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions —

Boise State at BYU

O Friday, 6 p.m.

TV • ESPN