Taysom Hill leads BYU past Middle Tennessee, 37-10
PROVO, Utah (AP)
Taysom Hill ignored all the criticism. He just went out and made plays for BYU with his arm and his legs.
Hill ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 177 yards in BYU's 37-10 victory over Middle Tennessee on Friday night.
Mike Alisa added a pair of touchdown runs, JD Falslev returned a punt 71 yards for a score and the Cougars (2-2) finished with 309 yards rushing and 486 yards of total offense. They limited the Blue Raiders to 212 yards.
Hill, who moved to No. 2 at BYU for single-season rushing yards by a quarterback, was facing questions about his ability to throw the ball after completing just 35.1 percent of his passes in his first three games.
He was much better against the Blue Raiders (3-2), completing 14 of 19 passes.
''There's always going to be critiques and everything else,'' said Hill, who was the first player to rush for 100 yards against Middle Tennessee this season. ''I knew I was capable of doing it. We were on the same page today and got some easy completions early and that helped. Look, I was never worried about it. I never doubted.''
Hill had a couple of turnovers - a first-half fumble in the red zone and a second-half interception. But his teammates felt the sophomore vindicated himself against the Blue Raiders in the face of intense criticism.
''It's hard as a teammate to see him get so much blame for it when it's not his fault - plain and simple,'' Falslev said. ''Guys got to catch the football. Guys got to block. And then everything else is easy.''
Logan Kilgore was 13 of 31 for 82 yards and a touchdown for Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders forced five turnovers, but could do little against the Cougars' defense.
''That's a special defense out there,'' Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. ''They're in the top two or three in the country in all the defensive categories for a reason.''
Middle Tennessee also struggled to contain Hill throughout the first half. He rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 96 yards on 8-of-9 passing.
The Cougars ran only eight first-quarter plays as the Blue Raiders held the ball for nearly 12 minutes. But BYU led 7-3 after Adam Hine returned a kickoff 90 yards to set up Hill's 12-yard scoring run.
Middle Tennessee took a 10-7 lead after BYU had three consecutive turnovers. Falslev fumbled a punt return to give the Blue Raiders the ball deep in Cougars territory, and Kilgore tossed a 16-yard TD pass to Marcus Henry with 36 seconds left in the first quarter.
Two more fumbles kept the Cougars from reaching the end zone early in the second quarter. Hill coughed up the ball on a keeper at the Middle Tennessee 2, and BYU marched down the field again on its next possession, only to have Alisa fumble into the end zone.
''We left 14 points on the field with the fumbles on the goal line,'' Hill said. ''That's inexcusable. We have to clean that up. We got into a close game and we can't do that. That's two weeks in a row we've left a lot of points on the field from our red-zone performance.''
BYU's defense kept Middle Tennessee from doing anything positive after the two fumble recoveries. The Cougars forced a safety following Hill's fumble when Kyle Van Noy brought down Jordan Parker in the end zone.
BYU finally retook the lead after forcing a Blue Raiders punt following Alisa's fumble. Hill broke loose for a 50-yard run that put the Cougars up 16-10 with 7:31 left in the half. They extended the lead to 23-10 on Alisa's 2-yard run right before the break.
''The turnovers gave us a chance, but we just couldn't get anything going offensively,'' Stockstill said. ''Their front seven is really good. It's hard when you can't get anything easy. We had to earn every inch we got.''
Alisa added another 1-yard scoring run to cap BYU's opening drive in the second half. Falslev then closed the third quarter with the long punt return to complete the scoring.
BYU receiver Cody Hoffman sat out after he was suspended for violating a team rule. Coach Bronco Mendenhall didn't provide details in announcing the one-game penalty.
The senior, the team's receiving leader entering the game, also missed the season-opening loss to Virginia because of a hamstring injury.
Hoffman is the second high-profile player suspended in two weeks. Starting linebacker Spencer Hadley was suspended for five games before last week's loss to Utah after violating the school's honor code.
Hoffman stood on the sidelines, dressed in street clothes, with the rest of the BYU team during the game and posed with fans for pictures after the game ended. Mendenhall said he is working closely with Hoffman to get him back in good standing.
''In working with the university, it's one game at this point,'' Mendenhall said. ''I have other standards for him as well that he has to meet or there could be another suspension if those standards aren't met over the next four weeks.''
BYU also lost a running back to injury for the second straight week. Hine suffered a concussion on a kickoff return in the first quarter and did not return.