PROVO — On a warm, sunny Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, sophomore Ammon Olsen was enjoying his chance to shine in his unofficial debut as a BYU quarterback.
"It was so fun to finally get to play in front of the crowd and play tackle football," said Olsen, who took snaps with the first team offense during the Cougars' Blue and White game.
Quarterback Taysom Hill, wearing a green jersey, stood on the sidelines and did not play in the spring game as a precautionary measure.
"It's been a lot of momentum leading up to this day," said Olsen, who hadn't played in a game-like atmosphere since 2009 at Southern Utah, prior to his LDS mission. "I think we played pretty well as an offense. Obviously, there's a long ways to go, but it was fun."
Fun, that is, until Olsen suffered a knee injury during his second series after absorbing a hard hit. Olsen went down awkwardly, and the crowd of more than 12,000 at LaVell Edwards Stadium held its collective breath.
As Olsen was being attended to by medical personnel, BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson walked onto the field, showing his concern.
"The good thing is, (Olsen) got up pretty quickly thereafter," said first-year quarterbacks coach Jason Beck. "You figured it wasn't too bad, or else they'd take some time to really check it out."
Olsen was helped to the sideline, where he received further treatment.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said preliminary indications are that Olsen suffered a partial PCL — not a more serious ACL or MCL — tear in his left knee. Doctors are anticipating that it "is not likely to require surgery. It's usually a six-week recovery. That's the early prognosis," said Mendenhall.
Olsen has been scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday to find out more about the extent of the injury.
Beck said it was a situation that couldn’t have been prevented. "I think it was a fluke injury," he said.
Prior to the injury, Olsen completed 6-of-11 passes for 96 yards, including a 49-yarder to wide receiver Cody Raymond, and guided the Cougar offense on an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the opening series.
After the spring game, Olsen walked with a limp and said he was experiencing stiffness in his knee.
"I think I just got rolled up on," said Olsen, who ran BYU's scout team offense last season. "I don't think it's super-severe, but you never know with knee problems."
"Hopefully, it's a just couple of weeks and he'll be back and healthy," Beck said. "Obviously, he's key to what we're doing. He's battling for the first spot or at least the second spot. He's going to be an important guy for our team."
Hill started two games last year before a knee injury ended his season last October against Utah State on a play that came after a miscommunication from the sidelines. Hill has been considered to be the likely starting quarterback next fall, but Olsen has also been impressive during spring drills.
"Right now, it's kind of neck-and-neck," Beck said of the quarterback race. "We're not ready to name a (starter) at this time. But they're both playing well, which is a good situation to be in."
Olsen said he and Hill are pushing each other to be the best they can be.
"Taysom and I are good buds. Obviously, we compete really hard. We've both been playing pretty well, getting used to this offense and getting used to the new speed and new signs. He couldn't play today because of his knee. I think I played pretty well for the first time running against a full-speed defense. We'll see how it goes in the summer and fall."
The coaching staff decided to have the quarterbacks participate in "live" play, but opted to keep Hill out.
"Because it was live, I didn't want him around any of that action," offensive coordinator Robert Anae said of Hill. "He's having a good spring and doing well."
For the spring game, the team was divided into two squads, BYU East and BYU West. The West, with Olsen leading the first-team offense, prevailed, 16-14.
Jamaal Williams, representing the West, scored the first touchdown of the game on a three-yard run.
Junior quarterback Christian Stewart, an Orem native and Snow College transfer, led the second-team offense and directed a 12-play, 80-yard drive on his first series, capped by a three-yard touchdown pass to Terenn Houk.
Stewart finished the day having completed 5-of-8 passes for 46 yards. Freshman QB Tanner Mangum also led a touchdown drive that ended with a 32-yard run by Paul Lasike. Mangum, who is scheduled to depart for a mission later this year, completed 8-of-8 passes for 73 yards and had a three-yard TD run on a QB keeper. Freshman Billy Green completed 4-of-6 passes for 26 yards.
"I loved to see the whole offense — the one's, two's and three's — drive down and score," Olsen said. "That's what we want. That's what football is."
"A lot more touchdowns in general for a spring game," Mendenhall said of the 80-play scrimmage. "(The offense is) coming along nicely. Certainly we can improve. I like the tempo and I thought our execution was pretty good. It was a positive day overall offensively."
Once again, Anae stressed the importance of his offense playing fast and playing hard.
"Whatever you write in your goofy columns, write that — we've got a long way to go before we get to the point where I'm satisfied with how fast we play and how hard we play," Anae told reporters.
Beck's assessment of the quarterbacks?24 comments on this story
"I thought Ammon came out and executed sharp early. He executed his reads. He took some throws down the field when he had them, dumped them off when he had them, made some plays with his feet. I was impressed with his decision-making. I thought Stewart did a nice job as well. ... Tanner and Billy did a nice job with their opportunities."
Anae was encouraged to see that his quarterbacks did not turn the ball over.
"The quarterback is the No. 1 position for securing the football," he said. "We did that. I'm very pleased with that. Ammon got a little dinged up. We'll see where he is on Monday, where he's at."
NOTES: Placekicker Tyler Jackson missed his first PAT attempt, but later drilled a 45-yard field goal. Placekicker Justin Sorensen also missed a PAT and hit a 33-yard field goal. Lasike led all rushers with 78 yards on nine carries. Most of the projected starters, particularly on defense, were held out of action Saturday as a precaution. Linebacker Alani Fua had 1½ sacks and a pass breakup. Linebacker Jordan Egbert recorded two sacks, while linebacker Tyler Beck and defensive lineman Michael Doman each tallied one sack. Cornerback Jordan Johnson had one pass breakup. Defensive back Trevor Bateman had an interception, taking the ball away from wide receiver Ross Apo, but that was negated by a penalty.