GAME NOTES: The BYU Cougars try to extend their win streak to five in a row on Friday night, as they host the Boise State Broncos at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.
BYU kicked off the 2013 campaign with two defeats in three tries, with a resounding 40-21 romp over nationally-ranked Texas in between. Most recently, the Cougars were pitted against Houston on the road last weekend and managed to steal away a 47-46 victory over those Cougars.
As for the Broncos, members of the Mountain West Conference which is where the Cougars used to reside before becoming an Independent, they have the same overall record as BYU at 5-2, but have been fighting to get back into the national rankings ever since losing the season opener at Washington, 38-6.
Last Saturday, BSU was locked up against a familiar rival in Nevada and eventually captured a 34-17 home victory, the third straight win and the fifth in the last six games overall for the Broncos as they moved to 3-1 in conference play.
Boise State has never lost to the Cougars, posting a third win in as many meetings last season, albeit by a score of just 7-6.
The Broncos took their cues from running back Jay Ajayi last Saturday as he posted a career-high 222 yards and scored three touchdowns on 24 carries in the team's 17-point victory against Nevada. The Broncos were a little shaky on defense in the first half as they surrendered 246 yards, but they tightened up after intermission and allowed only 127 yards to the Wolf Pack.
Starting quarterback Joe Southwick made an early exit with an injury, leaving Grant Hedrick to fill his shoes and the backup was more than adequate as he not only converted 18-of-21 passes for 150 yards, he also become the first BSU quarterback in nearly a decade to run for at least 100 yards, churning out 115 net yards and a couple of touchdowns on just eight carries.
The latest news on Southwick is not good at all, listed as being out indefinitely with an ankle injury, which means Hedrick will now be the field leader for the Broncos. The good news, if there is such a thing, is that BSU head coach Chris Petersen has made it a habit of getting his backups quality playing time during the season and that should put Hedrick in a solid position to succeed moving forward.
Hedrick has completed a staggering 81.1 percent of his 37 pass attempts this season, although his yardage total (264) is not all that impressive. Then again, Hedrick was primarily used after outcomes had already been decided, so his passing was not always a major concern.
Nevertheless, Boise State is a team that ranks 18th in the country in total offense with 494.4 ypg and coach Petersen aims to keep it that way no matter who is under center.
The Cougars offense spent quite a bit of time on the field at Reliant Stadium in Texas last weekend, tying an FBS record for offensive snaps with 115, yet the team won by just a single point in a wild affair versus Houston. BYU generated a hefty 683 yards of total offense and set school records for first downs (41) and total plays.
Quarterback Taysom Hill converted 29-of-44 passes for a career-best 417 yards, leading to four touchdowns. The signal caller also carried the ball 34 times for another 128 yards, making him the first player to reach 100 rushing yards versus the Houston defense this season. Cody Hoffman accounted for seven catches for 156 yards, not only notching his 16th career 100-yard outing, but also becoming the school's all-time leader in receptions, now with 228.
Hill has managed to average a solid 240.0 ypg when passing the ball, but his nine touchdowns through the air are only slightly better than his eight interceptions. Instead, Hill's real asset appears to be as a runner, what with his team-best 772 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. As a group, BYU is producing 263.0 ypg rushing and has delivered 15 touchdowns, a huge advantage over the competition which has a mere three rushing TDs versus the BYU defense to this point.
Speaking of the BYU defense, there are few players in the country who are as feared as Kyle Van Noy, a devastating linebacker who has a nose for the ball like few others. Van Noy is second on the team in total tackles (44), trailing only Uani Unga (69), but he is easily the leader with 11 TFL and four sacks, not to mention 11 quarterback hurries and five pass breakups.
With the Broncos having to revamp their offense because of the loss of Southwick there are bound to be a few hiccups when the team takes the field this week, and that will certainly work to the advantage of Hill and the rest of the Cougars.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 33, Boise State 27
Provo, UT (SportsNetwork.com) - Taysom Hill tossed three touchdown passes in BYU's 37-20 win over Boise State on Friday.
Hill was 27-of-41 for 339 yards for the Cougars (6-2), who have won five straight games.
BYU, which had never beaten Boise State prior to Friday, forced four Broncos turnovers -- three in the second half.
Jay Ajayi ran for 151 yards on 23 carries, while Grant Hedrick completed 25- of-42 passes for 232 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Boise State (5-3), which had its three-game winning streak snapped.
The Cougars jumped out to a 24-3 halftime lead and the Broncos never got within less than 14 the rest of the way.
Hill scampered in from 20 yards out midway through the first for the opening stanza's only points.
After both teams exchanged field goals in the second, BYU tallied a pair of touchdowns in the final 3:45 of the opening half.
Ross Apo hauled in a 37-yard score and Remington Peck pounced on Shane Williams-Rhodes fumble on Boise State's ensuing touch. Hill made the Broncos pay when he flipped a 4-yard fade pass in the back right corner of the end zone to Cody Hoffman with 44 ticks to go until the break.
Dan Goodale kicked a 34-yard field goal on the Broncos' intitial march of the second half before BYU answered when Hill found Mitch Mathews for a 40-yard score to make it 31-6.
Hedrick's 5-yard TD run preceded a Justin Sorensen 34-yard field goal, which increased the BYU advantage to 34-13 heading into the fourth.
Hedrick hit Troy Ware for a 14-yard touchdown early in the fourth, but Sorensen's 41-yard field goal on BYU's next touch put the hosts back up by three scores midway through the final frame.