Three and Out: Taysom Hill, BYU smother reeling Boise State
Fans who made a Friday-night pilgrimage to BYU's LaVell Edwards Stadium took in an offensive show from the hometown Cougars. Taysom Hill and BYU continued their surge by blitzing visiting Boise State, 37-20, in Provo. The Broncos, once the darling of the Mountain West, looked all too human against former league member BYU, which left the conference to become an independent. Now it appears BYU is the program on the rise, while coach Chris Petersen is likely searching for answers on both sides of the ball in Boise.
Here are three thoughts from BYU's win over Boise State:
• BYU's offense is clicking: Last season, Boise State (5-3, 3-1) escaped the Cougars with a 7-6 win. The Broncos had no answers this time around for BYU's attack, which wasted little time in putting this game out of reach. BYU (6-2) built a 24-3 halftime lead thanks largely to its efficiency: It ran 52 plays for 376 yards of total offense in the first half, and it finished the night with 568 yards.
Much of that production is thanks to Hill, who again showed why he's one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country. The sophomore accounted for three of his four total touchdowns by halftime, and he completed 21-of-28 passes for 253 yards through two quarters. On the night Hill totaled 408 of BYU's total yards, including touchdown passes of 37 and 40 yards alongside a 20-yard rushing score.
The Cougars' defense did an astounding job as well, holding a Boise team that came in averaging 39.9 points to only 20. But it's no secret that BYU's success hinges on its offense this season. In its two losses to Virginia and Utah, the Cougars managed only 16 and 13 points, respectively. In the team's six wins -- including the last five straight -- it has averaged 38 points per game.
• This ain't your father's Boise State: The grass isn't as green in Boise nowadays. Petersen's crew had one of its worst offensive years of the coach's tenure in 2012, and Petersen said in the spring that this season was likely to be a challenge for his program. Still, many expected the Broncos to improve enough to contend for an at-large BCS bid. Instead the program has floundered in games it absolutely had to win in order to remain in that conversation.
Its meeting with BYU was one of those games. The Broncos started without quarterback Joe Southwick, and it showed early. With the senior sidelined nursing a broken ankle, junior Grant Hedrick earned his first-career start against Kyle Van Noy and a talented BYU defense on the road. While Hedrick played well -- he recorded 238 passing yards and two total touchdowns -- he completed only 26 of his 43 pass attempts while fighting an uphill battle thanks to Boise State's four turnovers.
Yet even with the late miscues -- three of those turnovers came on consecutive series in the second half -- the Broncos still had a chance to fight back. With 4:43 left to play and Boise State staring at a 37-20 deficit, the Broncos tried to convert on fourth down just inside BYU territory only to be stopped for the third time of the night. That moment was an appropriate illustration of Boise State's outing in Provo.
Fans aren't used to one of Petersen's teams being so mediocre. The Broncos have not lost three games in the regular season since 2005, the year before he took over as head coach. The Mountain West title, once a virtual lock for the Boise State program, is decidedly out of reach. But in a league like the Mountain West, the Broncos aren't likely to remain afterthoughts for long. • BCS focus? While Boise State's BCS chances are out the window, the door is still open for BYU to sneak into the picture. The Cougars face stiff tests against Wisconsin next week and Notre Dame two weeks after that, but winning out would mean nine straight victories to close the season for the Cougars. Of course, Mendenhall and BYU would need bad luck to hit the likes of Louisville and Fresno State, but there's no reason to completely count the Cougars out of the BCS picture.