LARAMIE, Wyo. The Cowboys threw everything but the barn door at Max Hall on Saturday.
Wyoming blitzed Hall almost every down, from the corner, from the middle, from the end and nearby I-80. They knocked Hall down during and after passes. He took a fist to the face mask early and then late. After two consecutive third-quarter takedowns, one by 6-foot-6, 274-pound John Fletcher, Hall hesitated to get up from his knees. As seconds ticked on, the crowd in War Memorial Stadium cheered louder and louder.
But Hall got up. He walked off the field, his arm to his side, and sat down where receiver Austin Collie joined him.
As the third-quarter closed, trainer Kevin Morris and physician Kirt Kimball took Hall to the locker room to examine his right shoulder.
Morris applied some tape, and Hall returned to hit Harvey Unga on a short, 8-yard dump-off, and the freshman ran 43-yards to set up BYU's final touchdown.
As we've seen all season, Hall should be dead, if not seriously injured from the hits he's absorbed. Fletcher's hit should have polished Hall off this season. So should the one before, by linebacker John Prater.
"That was one big dude," Hall said afterward of Fletcher. "I didn't know how big he was, until he came up after the game and asked how I was."
After BYU's 35-10 win over the Cowboys, quarterback coach Brandon Doman declared that Hall had delivered the finest game of his career. At the half, he was a blistering 22-of-29 for 245 yards. At the end, BYU had converted 8-of-13 third downs.
"This was his best game," Doman said. "He got blitzed on almost every play. On the first 15 plays, he saw like 10 corner blitzes from each side, but he was seeing it, he was delivering the ball, he was efficient on third down. I haven't seen the completion percentage, but he was pretty danged good ... throwing it around."
For the record, Hall finished the day 26-of-37 for 331 yards, three touchdowns and a pass-efficiency rating of 172.17. His 3,121 yards is the best by any sophomore in the NCAA.
"Only New Mexico came closest to that many blitzes," said Hall.
But more importantly, the big question today is just how healthy is this guy?
Doman and Hall huddled with the medical staff outside the locker room while the rest of the team packed or got ready for media interviews. Doman broke the huddle and declared Hall OK. His quarterback had experienced a little shoulder separation. "Something I can relate to," said Doman.
Hall said he expects to be sore today, but after Morris worked on him, he said he felt fine.
Concluded Doman: "I'm proud of him because he's had to prove to himself, his team and everybody else we're playing against that he could handle the pressure, and he certainly did that again today. He's going to be fine.
"He hurt his throwing shoulder a little, but he came back in, took us down for a score. It was good for him and good for our team. It showed he wasn't going to let anything or anybody hold him down. We're lucky to have him."
Yeah, standing upright.
Hall said his performance was among his best. "I've thrown for more yards and touchdowns in a game before. But as far as consistency, moving the chains and getting yards and first downs, it was one of my better games."
At this stage of his young career, Hall said, "I am where I wanted to be." He acknowledged the game has slowed down for him. He's seeing blitzes better; recognizing what defenses are trying to do.
That's why Doman left Laramie impressed with his guy because the Cowboys opened the corral gates at him.
And he sponged it once more.
"Teams know he's young, he's a sophomore and they've got to rattle him, get him out of his game or do something to cause him to be uncomposed in any way then they're going to have a chance to win," said Doman. "But the sign of a great quarterback and a warrior is that that stuff makes him better. When they want to slug him in the face or put that kind of pressure on him, he actually rises to that and plays better."
So Hall is supposedly ready for this coming week and the home finale against Utah.
"Sometimes you take shots, and I've been lucky all year to stay healthy and, knock on wood, I'll continue to stay healthy," he said.Get a big block of oak and start knuckling, Max.
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