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BYU football: BYU's passing game searching for answers

Published: Thursday, July 30 2015 11:14 p.m. MDT

BYU's Taysom Hill as the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Provo.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) BYU's Taysom Hill as the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Provo. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

PROVO — First, the good news for BYU.

Cougar running back Jamaal Williams, who suffered a concussion and severe stinger in the third quarter in a 20-13 loss to Utah, was released from the hospital Sunday morning.

Williams, a sophomore, underwent imaging and other testing to rule out a spine-related injury. He was alert and his condition continued to improve during the tests. Williams was kept at the hospital overnight for observation.

As for his status, Williams, who ran 13 times for 52 yards against the Utes and is No. 10 in the nation in rushing (126 yards per game), will continue to be examined every day to monitor his improvement.

BYU hosts Middle Tennessee Friday (7 p.m. MDT, ESPNU).

The bad news?

• The Cougars have now dropped four consecutive games to their arch-rivals in their final meeting until 2016.

Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Kyle Van Noy (3) tries to block the pass by Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) during NCAA football in Provo Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Kyle Van Noy (3) tries to block the pass by Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) during NCAA football in Provo Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

• They’ve started with a 1-2 record for the seventh time in the last 10 seasons.

• And BYU’s offense — which featured a dismal passing game — managed just two field goals and a touchdown against Utah.

Quarterback Taysom Hill completed only 18-of-48 passes for 260 yards and one interception against the Utes. Hill misfired on 30 attempts, including a number of overthrown passes.

“This is a disappointing loss for us,” said offensive coordinator Robert Anae. “Obviously, our preparation wasn’t good enough.”

Nationally, BYU ranks No. 123 — which is last in the country — in pass efficiency.

"I need to be better," Hill said. “We need to be more efficient. I think Utah had a pretty good scheme on us, but there at the end, we started to find gaps. It is just unfortunate that we didn’t do it soon enough. So that is something that we need to continue to get better at.”

Utah celebrates their win over BYU during NCAA football in Provo Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Utah won 20-13. (Andrew J. Allred, Deseret News) Utah celebrates their win over BYU during NCAA football in Provo Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Utah won 20-13. (Andrew J. Allred, Deseret News)

Anae said that the blame for his team’s passing woes can’t be pinned exclusively on Hill.

Hill was sacked five times and there were several dropped passes.

“Taysom is a sophomore quarterback. We expect to win the game,” Anae said. “We fell short. But I’m very encouraged about his work ethic and the way he plays in the course of a game. He’s very good to work with, adjustment-wise. I just wish we were sharper, obviously. We all do.”

Anae said the offense will go back to work this week.

“Our focus is to continue down the path that we’re going. We got beat in the trenches, and that’s something that we’ve got to simply get better at,” Anae said. “Credit goes to Utah. They were better than we were there. That’s not to blame any one group or any one person. It was an offensive effort, and their defense beat us. … There is no easy way out of this. We’ve got to coach our way out of it and we’ve got to prepare and play our way out of it.”

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham and Brigham Young Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall shake after the NCAA football in Provo Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Utah won 20-13. (Andrew J. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham and Brigham Young Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall shake after the NCAA football in Provo Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Utah won 20-13. (Andrew J. Allred, Deseret News)

The Cougars had plenty of chances to send the game into overtime in the waning moments but failed to make key plays that could have made the difference. BYU couldn’t cash in after crossing into Utah territory.

“In going back to the number of missed opportunities, I think we had a missed field goal as well, so that would be one of a handful of plays that usually change games like this," said coach Bronco Mendenhall.

The Cougars, who rolled up a school record of 550 yards of rushing yards in a win over Texas, ran 47 times for 183 yards against the Utes. BYU converted just five of 21 third-down attempts.

"You know if you are a good running team and you get down there, that usually shows up. And, boy, we got down there, but credit Utah again,” Anae said. “They were physical in that area. And we were not. They made plays in the run game and pushed us to third and long. Anytime you are dealing with third and long with a quarterback you are developing and a pass game (that’s struggling), that’s a hard road."

Utah celebrates their win over BYU during NCAA football in Provo Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Utah won 20-13. (Andrew J. Allred, Deseret News) Utah celebrates their win over BYU during NCAA football in Provo Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Utah won 20-13. (Andrew J. Allred, Deseret News)

That hard road continues Friday against Middle Tennessee (3-1), which is coming off a 42-35 overtime victory over Florida Atlantic.

Against Utah, BYU senior wide receiver Cody Hoffman hauled in eight receptions for 108 yards. He eclipsed Margin Hooks for fourth-place on the Cougars’ all-time receiving yards list with 2,889 yards. It marked the 15th time Hoffman had notched a 100-yard receiving game. That’s only two short of BYU’s all-time leader, Austin Collie.

Wide receiver Mitch Mathews caught three passes for 54 yards, which are both career highs.

Linebacker Tyler Beck, filling in for Spencer Hadley — who is serving a five-game suspension for violating the school’s honor code — enjoyed a career-best performance with 10 tackles. Beck racked up two tackles-for-loss — the first time he had recorded a tackle-for-loss at BYU.

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