A month or two ago, nobody would have imagined making this discovery.
Not in August, when BYU struggled to score in the rain at Virginia. Not in September, when Taysom Hill threw the football so erratically against Utah.
Yet here we are in late October, and the conclusion is becoming clear: BYU’s offense really works.
The same folks who simply could not produce enough points to win games earlier this season are making some convincing statements lately. Hill is a genuinely accurate passer. Robert Anae’s new scheme is highly effective.
More evidence came Friday night in a 37-20 victory over Boise State at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
These guys have won over a lot of doubters, that’s for sure. Utah State, Georgia Tech, Houston and Boise State don’t have to be convinced after the Cougars scored 31, 38, 47 and 37 points in four October games.
This is becoming a vintage Bronco Mendenhall team, with a defense that allows a fair amount of yards but usually not many points — and an offense that has discovered itself.
“It took a little bit of time,” Hill said, “but we found it.”
BYU dominated the first half with 376 total yards. Even with a rather sluggish performance after that, the Cougars finished with 568 yards. The line’s improvement enabled Jamaal Williams to run for 107 yards and BYU reintroduced the tight ends to the offense, with seven catches between Devin Mahina and Kaneakua Friel.
Anae could stand to slow down and shorten games in second halves when the Cougars are leading, but the commitment to the fast tempo is succeeding.
Hill played brilliantly through the first 37 minutes, with three touchdown passes and another score on the ground. “For a lot of the game, [Hill] looked completely composed and unrattled,” Mendenhall said.
Hill finished with 339 passing yards and 69 rushing yards — not quite his 400/100 standard of last weekend at Houston, but more than sufficient production to subdue the Broncos — and enough for Mendenhall to label him “one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”
So the Great Potato Blight is over, thanks to an Idaho native.
As a freshman, Hill had entered last year’s game at Boise and led a 95-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, only to be stopped on a two-point conversion attempt in a 7-6 loss. No such drama came into play Friday, when BYU ended Boise State’s 21-game winning streak over Utah schools.
Boise State’s Chris Petersen was 10-0 against those neighboring teams until coming to Provo.
So this one’s for Gary Crowton, Kyle Whittingham and Brent Guy, coaches who have never beaten the Broncos.
This one’s for Andy Ludwig, Dave Baldwin and Brandon Doman, coordinators whose offenses were stymied by the Broncos.
This one’s for John Beck, Brett Ratliff and Riley Nelson, the quarterbacks who couldn’t beat the Broncos.
I’ll stop short of suggesting that followers of other Utah schools should feel good about BYU’s performance. But for the sake of state pride, this streak had to stop, wouldn’t you say? No outsider admires Boise State’s program more than I do, but the Broncos’ domination had gone on long enough.
This is not a vintage Boise State team. Even if the Broncos (5-3) win the Mountain West title, BYU’s defeat of Texas probably will stand as the Cougars’ most meaningful victory of 2013.
Then again, there may be more breakthroughs to come, with November trips to Wisconsin and Notre Dame.