Provo • Looking for a magic number for the BYU Cougars against Utah? It could be 100, as in 100 rushing yards.
The Cougars were 0-5 last year when they failed to rush for 100 yards and 6-1 when getting at least 100 yards. The only game they broke the 100-yard mark and lost was to the Utes, when the Cougars rushed 47 times for 153 yards.
Hearing those stats, BYU running back Ty’Son Williams stands a little straighter, shakes his head and says he is determined to help the Cougars’ running game.
Sure, everyone might be expecting quarterback Zach Wilson to shoulder the responsibility of making the offense go, but Williams believes the run game needs and can do its part.
“If we can go out there and be effective and have 100-plus on the ground, then we can have a great season,” he said.
The Cougars finished 2018 averaging 153.2 yards on the ground and 211.8 passing yards, but a look at the game-by-game stats shows the run game broke down against quality opponents.
Williams, who transferred from South Carolina, and Emmanuel Esukpa, who transferred from Rice, were brought in to bolster the run game.
The Cougars also have sophomore Lopini Katoa, who rushed 76 times for 423 yards and eight touchdowns last year, but the 6-foot, 220-pound Williams has been impressive in camp.
He has fit in well with the team, too, Wilson said.
“Him being the new guy, it is hard on him to come in the last second and make friends, but he is a cool dude and he is great to have around,” Wilson said.
Williams decided to leave South Carolina after rushing for just 328 yards on 70 carries and no touchdowns in 2018. In 2017, he rushed 95 times for 471 yards and a touchdown.
“Going into my last season, I wanted a change,” he said. “This is a good opportunity here to try something new. I had a great visit here and it pulled me in.”
Williams didn’t know much about the state of Utah, or BYU for that matter, but he did know the Cougars had Jamaal Williams, who played for the Cougars from 2012 to ’14 and in 2016, finishing with 726 carries and 3,901 yards for 35 touchdowns before heading to the NFL.
Ty’Son Williams took heart in that bit of past success, and a trip of faith out West.
“If a school doesn’t have history at a position, it doesn’t mean that you are the next to fall in line,” he said. “You have to set your own trend, and go in and be the first one to do it. Jamaal did that.”
Williams doesn’t know much about the Utah-BYU rivalry, but his teammates are bringing him up to speed. He has played in big games in the past, and he is eager for the season opener.
“Anytime you play in a rivalry game, it ups the stakes,” he said. “I’m ready to get going.”
BYU’S 2018 RUSHING TOTALS
BYU’s rushing yards per game:
Arizona, W, 43 carries for 183 yards
Cal, L, 33 carries for 91 yards
Wisconsin, W, 28 carries for 191 yards
McNeese, W, 42 carries for 161 yards
Washington, L, 28 carries for 34 yards
Utah State, L, 16 carries for 39 yards
Hawaii, W, 47 carries, for 280 yards
Northern Illinois, L, 37 carries for 93 yards
Boise State, L, 38 carries for 96 yards
UMass, W, 40 carries for 221 yards
New Mexico St., W, 51 carries for 317 yards
Utah, L, 47 carries for 153 yards