BYU football: Against Georgia Tech, can Cougars' passing game continue to make strides?
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — Georgia Tech is famous for its triple-option attack and is ranked No. 7 in the nation in rushing. BYU, meanwhile, is ranked No. 13 nationally in rushing.
But as the Yellow Jackets and Cougars collide Saturday (5 p.m. MDT, ESPNU) for BYU's homecoming game at LaVell Edwards Stadium, there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding BYU’s improving passing game.
In last week’s 31-14 thumping of Utah State in Logan, quarterback Taysom Hill completed 17 of 31 passes for a career-high 278 yards and three touchdowns. All three TD receptions were hauled in by the oven-mitt-sized hands of 6-foot-6 wide receiver Mitch Mathews, who caught a career-best five passes for 112 yards.
Senior wide receiver Cody Hoffman had a relatively quiet outing against the Aggies, catching three passes for 41 yards. But he still made a big impact on the passing game.
“You look at the plays (Mathews) made last Friday, like that long touchdown where he was wide open,” Hill said. “The safety was helping on Cody. We had single coverage with Mitch. He’s a great athlete. It's the combination of his athleticism and what Cody is able to do (that) freed Mitch up. Teams won’t be able to focus on one guy because we have many that can make plays.”
Going into the season, coach Bronco Mendenhall said his receiving corps was the deepest he’s had in his nine seasons at the helm. Over the first few games, however, the receivers dropped plenty of passes and didn’t run precise routes.
BYU wide receivers coach Guy Holliday insisted this week that his players never lacked confidence in Hill as a passer.
“I don’t think any of my guys had any questions that Taysom could get them the ball,” Holliday said. “We’ve done it in practice. We had a lot of success in the summer. It was a matter of taking it to the game. Taysom Hill is a playmaker. What’s the difference if you run for 70 yards or throw a 70-yard pass? It’s still 70 yards. We want to be a complete football team. We don’t want to be one-dimensional. We don’t want to be all run. We don’t want to be all pass. We want to be successful. A good football player is going to do what it takes to win. If that’s running the football, we’ll be there to do that. If that’s passing the ball, we’ll be there. As far as lacking confidence in Taysom, I don’t think that ever existed.”
Hoffman, who is closing on several all-time BYU receiving records, has played in only three games due to an injury and a suspension.
Perhaps now, as the Cougars approach the midway point of their schedule, the receivers are beginning to emerge.
BYU coaches have been excited about Mathews’ potential for some time, and how he could complement Hoffman.
“Mitch really emerged in spring, and then in fall camp. He’s been the most consistent because of practice,” Mendenhall said. “He’s been healthy and there’s been no other issues. It means we have a chance for Cody not to be singled out as much and anytime that happens, you have a chance to be more effective.”
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae reiterated this week that Hill’s recent improvement stems from other players doing their jobs.
“Your quarterback does well when the other 10 guys are moving at a high level,” he said. “I’m 100 percent confident in our quarterback and his ability to run and be productive in our scheme, whether we’re running it or throwing it. Our intent is to get the 10 guys around him executing at a higher level. We’re starting to see signs of that. I believe we took a step forward in the Utah State game. The wide receivers have been a little sharper — making plays and executing assignments.”
“I do feel our timing with our wideouts have gotten a lot better. It’s been evident and showed throughout the game,” he said. “I also think, scheme-wise, we’ve had some better schemes. The combination of those things have helped us be successful. We really went back and saw what we were successful at in previous games with our passing concepts and we stuck to those things and built off of those and threw the ones out we weren’t successful with.”
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