PROVO — Amidst the craziness of Saturday’s game against Houston were injuries to two key players on either side of the ball. Running back Jamaal Williams sat out most of the second half with a hip pointer while starting safety Craig Bills missed the entire game with a head injury.
Both players are expected to play this Friday against Boise State.
Bills practiced fully on Monday while Williams saw limited participation.
“I expect to play on Friday,” Williams said. “Even though I’m not [practicing fully] I’m still doing drills, going to team meetings and everything else, so I’ll be ready.”
Williams tried to continue to play after taking a helmet to his hip, but decided to hang it up after a couple of reps in the second half.
“I felt like I was going to hurt the team if I was to keep playing,” Williams explained. “I just told coach that I had to ice it and let the swelling go down. To be the competitor that I am, I want to go out there and help my team, but I still got to know that even if I’m healthy, and that I want to go out there and play, I still can’t hurt my team.”
It wasn’t an easy decision, and the Cougar ground game suffered in his absence. Williams rushed for a 4.9 average against Houston while his trio of backups averaged a full yard less.
Without Bills, the Cougar defense yielded 435 yards passing and 30 points to the high-octane Houston Cougar attack.
Almost a Bronco
Williams was pursued heavily by Boise State out of high school, but ultimately chose to sign with BYU despite having a brother in the Bronco football program. His decision had a lot to do with the opportunity to play running back.
Boise State mentioned throughout the recruiting process that it liked Williams as a running back, but more as a defensive back. BYU meanwhile only recruited him as a running back.
“I wasn’t going to play on the defensive side,” Williams said. “I wanted to go to the team that wanted me to play running back. BYU wanted me for the position that I wanted.”
Given his recruiting history with the Broncos, one may think he has something to prove come Friday, but it's a prospect Williams downplays.
“It’s not like I’m trying to show them up,” he said. “I just go out there and play like it’s a regular game — just go out there and prove that I am a good running back and to show everybody — not just Boise State.”
Last year's game against Boise State was a defensive slugfest that ultimately ended in a 7-6 win for the Broncos. Most, including coach Bronco Mendenhall, expect Friday's game to be another hard-fought affair, but higher-scoring.
“I think it’s going to be different,” Mendenhall said. “I think Boise is completely different offensively than they were a year ago — an entirely different system and they’re scoring a lot more points. I think we’re better offensively as well, so I wouldn’t expect it to be seven to six.”
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company