PROVO — BYU quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman has seen this before — a senior QB putting up big numbers, orchestrating a potent offensive attack, being an unflappable leader and, most importantly, winning games.
He saw it three years ago with John Beck, and he said now it's happening with Max Hall.
"He's definitely peaking right now. He's definitely coming into his own," Doman said of Hall. "I remember John Beck doing this about this time when he was a senior. I think it's a byproduct of being a senior and feeling the rhythm of the game. It is confidence. Just the experience alone — all the live bullets he's seen, the different coverages he's seen, and the ups and the downs that he's had — are so valuable. He's special guy, and we hope he continues playing the way that he's been playing."
The last two weeks, Hall has completed 48 of 66 passes for 666 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. In last week's victory over San Diego State, Hall showed that he can hurt opposing defenses by running the ball, too, gaining 47 yards and a TD on 14 carries.
For the No. 16 Cougars to knock off No. 10 TCU Saturday (5:30 p.m., Versus), they'll need another strong performance from Hall.
"His last two games have been exceptional," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "He looks poised; he looks super-confident and in complete command. No matter what gets thrown at him, he's smiling most of the time. And that's a good sign."
Through the first five games of the season, Hall threw 10 interceptions. Since then, he's cut down on his mistakes.
"He had those 10 interceptions and he saw what happened. He recognized that our team is not going to be a championship football team with turnovers," Doman said. "I don't want anybody reading this to think that if he throws another interception that our wheels are going to fall off. He very well could walk out on Saturday and throw an interception. We're not going to fall apart out there if it happens.
"But I do expect that he's going to play like a veteran, a three-year starting senior. I think he was the best quarterback in the nation last week, in my opinion. If he plays like that, he'll finish as the best quarterback in the country. I wouldn't shy away of saying that to anybody. I think he's capable of being that guy."
Hall said he isn't sure if he's peaking, but he likes the way he has been playing lately.
"I'm showing that I'm being consistent. I'm showing some improvement and doing some things very well as far as managing the offense and putting our team in a position to win," he said. "My goal is to not change anything, just to keep getting better and keep playing BYU football offense, which is methodically moving the ball downfield, and moving the chains and not forcing things. We've just got to keep it rolling."
BYU running back Manase Tonga said Hall and the offense are playing well together.
"Max is settling in. He's making the right reads. A lot of it has to do with the fact our O-line is giving him plenty of time to read defenses," Tonga said. "As long as we can give Max enough time, he can take care of the rest. Max is good enough to pick you apart if he has the time."
Last year against TCU, Hall was sacked six times and threw a pair of interceptions, and the offense mustered only seven points. Hall knows the Horned Frogs' defense, which perennially is ranked among the nation's best, poses a stiff challenge.
"Not only do they have good athletes and guys who are capable of making plays, they're well-coached and their schemes are good," he said. "They cause a lot of problems for offenses. They have the personnel to do it. We've got to do things that are to our strengths and to their weaknesses."
Doman said last year's game plan against TCU had flaws and believes that the Cougars have devised a more effective scheme this time.
"Hopefully, we'll have a better product that we put on the field on Saturday," Doman said. "For Max, he just needs to recognize that he's not going to be able to sit in the pocket for a long time. They've got some good defensive linemen and they're going to throw some blitzes at him.
"Hopefully, he'll do exactly what he did against San Diego State — as soon as the pressure came, he would take off and get some yards running. I know nobody (on an opposing defense) wants the quarterback to do that, especially a quarterback that's a threat throwing the football. They want to have guys in coverage. If he has to take off running, and if he can do it productively, instead of taking a sack or risking an interception, that's a positive thing for us."