BYU football: Freshman Hill leads blowout of Hawaii, but Mendenhall's sticking with Nelson
Provo • Norm Chow doesn't owe BYU anything after 27 years of service to the school, but Hawaii's new coach gave the heretofore punchless Cougars just what they needed Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium in front of a national television audience and more than 62,000 antsy fans eager to forget a two-game losing skid.
Chow brought a toothless, poor-tackling, injury-riddled defense in his first trip back to his old stomping grounds as a head coach, perhaps providing the Cougars the confidence they will need when the schedule turns much more difficult in October.
Freshman quarterback Taysom Hill got the start in place of injured senior Riley Nelson, who coach Bronco Mendenhall said needed a break to rest his aching back, and BYU routed the hapless Warriors 47-0 to improve to 3-2 heading into Friday's showdown with resurgent Utah State.
Hill threw for 112 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 143 yards and another score, but Mendenhall said Nelson will start Friday against Utah State if he's healthy.
"If [Nelson] is capable and ready to play, then he will be our starter," Mendenhall said. "He was hurt [Friday]. He just wasn't able all week and wasn't able today. So hopefully with the extra rest and extra time, that will be helpful. So I can't guarantee [Nelson will be healthy]. But that's my hope."
For his part, Hill declined to speculate on whether he's done enough the last two games to earn the starting position. Mendenhall praised the freshman, saying he did everything he was asked to do against the overmatched Warriors (1-3), but reiterated that it is still Nelson's job.
"Taysom is doing his part," Mendenhall said. "It is just, there is not as much history between he and I as between Riley and I, and our team. I am a Riley Nelson fan, and believe in his leadership ability when he is healthy, and when he is capable of playing the kind of game that he can play."
Another freshman, 17-year-old Jamaal Williams, also broke out in a big way in relief of Mike Alisa, who left after the Cougars' first possession with a fractured right forearm. While Hill was completing 12 of 21 passes and throwing one interception, Williams was also showing the Cougars' offense could be in good hands for years to come, packing the ball 15 times for 155 yards and two TDs, which he told his cousin before the game he would get.
"This was a nice start for him," Mendenhall said. "Now, we will get to see how he handles it against tougher and stiffer competition."
And BYU's defense was its usual stingy self, holding an opponent to fewer than 300 total yards for the 11th straight game. It even produced a few turnovers, after no takeaways in the 24-21 loss to Utah and the 7-6 loss to Boise State. It was BYU's first shutout since a 52-0 win over Wyoming on Nov. 7, 2009, and the first time Hawaii has been held scoreless since a 28-0 loss to SMU in 1998, ending a 182-game scoring streak.
"I don't think we should walk off just patting ourselves on the back," said defensive back Preston Hadley. "This isn't the best team we have played."
Two possessions before a 68-yard TD run in which he flat-out won a footrace with two Hawaii DBs, Hill threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Ross Apo, Apo's first touchdown catch of the season. Williams hit 100 yards with a 3-yard TD run early in the third quarter as the Cougars had two 100-yard rushers in the same game since Oct. 21, 2006, against UNLV (Curtis Brown and Mike Hague). Williams' second TD run came after Kyle Van Noy forced a fumble and Spencer Hadley returned it to the Hawaii 3-yard-line.
Daniel Sorensen intercepted a pass in the first quarter, BYU's first forced turnover since a 45-13 win over Weber State three weeks ago.
"It means a lot to us to get a shutout," said Ezekiel Ansah.
R In Short • With freshman Taysom Hill getting his first start at quarterback, BYU rediscovers its offense and rolls past defenseless Hawaii in Provo.
Key Moment • Hill sprints up the middle for 68 yards in the second quarter to give BYU a 20-0 lead.