Dick Harmon: Spectacular BYU defense gets relief in a down Hill runner
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — Help came.
Bronco Mendenhall’s defense is rebar tough, but through last season and the start of 2013, BYU's head coach had been searching for a little help from his offense, making changes galore and waiting, hoping and counting on some kind of punch to reward Kyle Van Noy and the rest of his defensive guys.
It took a loss and a second game, but he got it Saturday night in BYU’s 40-21 spanking of Texas at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
And it came in the most unexpected form.
Against No. 15 Texas, BYU took to the ground and literally beat the salsa out of the Longhorns.
How about this surprise script:
— Quarterback Taysom Hill: 259 yards rushing (a career high)
— Running back Jamaal Williams: 182 yards rushing (a career high)
— Running back Paul Lasike, 87 yards rushing (a career high)
— BYU: 679 yards total offense
BYU gained 550 yards on the ground. It broke a 55-year-old school record for rushing yards in a game by 85 yards. The previous record (465 yards) was set against Montana in 1958. The Cougars had 109 yards rushing last week against Virginia.
Hill ran like Robert Griffin III.
Looking at the real-time game stat monitor, BYU’s rushing yards rolled the digital readout like the odometer inside a Bonneville Salt Flats dragster.
The Cougars pounded Texas like a tenderizing meat mallet.
Ty Detmer sat in his home near Austin, Texas, grinning as wide as the Rio Grande. “A good night to be a Cougar in Texas,” he tweeted.
BYU went John Deere tractor then Le Mans race car on the Longhorns. The Cougars changed it up like a video game. Up the middle or around the end, it didn’t matter the real estate — it all got gobbled up.
With Mendenhall’s defense coming up with a multitude of stops, sacks, hurries, tackles for loss and pass deflections, Robert Anae’s offense reigned supreme. It may set back the “Bronco never wins a big game” crowd for a few days.
Hill struggled to pass the ball, keeping up a trend he showed at Virginia.
He overthrew, rifling passes behind and short. His efficiency plummeted.
But he turned to his strength.
And Hill put on a show. He made Texas’ linebackers look like cardboard cutouts.
Channeling Woody Hayes, the legendary Ohio State coach who once said, “I will pound you until you quit,” Hill took control of the game with his legs, setting up running backs Williams and Lasike as BYU amassed 349 rushing yards against the Longhorns defense. And that was in the first half.
BYU turned into a Big Ten football team of yesteryear — left, right, up the middle.
BYU’s offensive line, the goat a week ago, looked like something let out of a cage.
One game doesn’t make a season, but it is progress.
To put things in perspective, Texas struggled to defend the run in 2012, allowing more than 4 yards per carry. But Saturday, the Cougars averaged 8 yards per tote through the fourth quarter.
That led to a 27-14 Cougar advantage at intermission. And it kept BYU’s stingy defense fired up and effective.
With the crowd groaning over Hill’s incomplete passes, the sophomore fired up his other engine. On a leg many questioned if it had fully recovered from a season-ending injury last October against Utah State, Hill literally exploded with cuts and jet runs down field that left Texas coach Mack Brown dizzy.
Running the read-option, Hill cut apart Texas defenders, racing to a BYU quarterback record with a 68-yard TD run in the first quarter. He added scoring runs of 20 and 26 before BYU ran out the clock over the final 10 minutes of the game.
BYU’s defense shut out the Longhorns over the final 22 minutes of the game, a Texas offense that amassed 715 yards on NMSU last week — scoring more than 30 points on just 15 plays.
In short, this game really boosted BYU’s offensive players and their confidence in Anae, who was man enough to take the blame for the opening loss at Virginia, a game the Cougars literally gave away.
All the talk about "go fast, go hard," all the criticism of the past week, Anae’s guys stopped talking and went to work. Nothing fancy — just football at the line of scrimmage.
Could have put music to it.
Hayes once said, “The most deceptive course in football is straight at the goalpost.”
That, in a nutshell, was BYU’s offense Saturday night.
Not even another two-hour weather delay could stop it, let alone Texas.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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