Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News
BYU quarterback "Die Hard" Max Hall is dragged down by Utah's Kepa Gaison in the Cougars' 17-10 win last Saturday in Provo.

PROVO — How tough is Max Hall?

Bruce Willis "Die Hard" tough.

You could make a case the BYU sophomore quarterback is one gutsy dude, a guy who did things he should not have physically been capable of doing in Saturday's win.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall revealed on Monday that Hall played against Utah with a grade-three shoulder separation on his throwing arm. A similar injury kept Utah QB Brian Johnson out for multiple games in September and disrupted Miami Dolphin quarterback John Beck's sophomore year at BYU.

"He is a tough kid," said BYU trainer Kevin Morris. "He came in and worked really hard, and I credit Max. We gave him direction, but he worked himself into a position to play."

Beck also had a grade-three shoulder separation in 2004 when BYU's offense required him to run the option against Notre Dame's defense in Provo. He got hit and sat the rest of the game as Matt Berry came on in relief and led the Cougars past the Irish.

Morris said Beck didn't practice the following week but was cleared to play the next Saturday.

Tuesday after Hall's injury at Wyoming, Morris was surprised when he took Hall outside to test his range of motion and watched him throw 10-yard passes with velocity. "He had range of motion, and I wanted to test it. I was hoping he'd be able to throw like that on Wednesday. He went out and warmed up, and he was throwing 20 to 30 yards at practice," said Morris.

Was he surprised at Hall's recovery? "Absolutely, it was unique," said the trainer.

"Things have changed a little in our treatment since John," said Morris. "We have a pool and Max was able to get in it and use the buoyancy to regain his range of motion without his arm just hanging on its own weight."

Beck played in the last series in the next 2004 game at Stanford but couldn't throw the ball more than 30 yards, and the pain killed him. Beck then made an appearance in the USC game after Stanford but was limited to sidearm throws.

Beck has often mentioned the worst part of playing those games was the novocaine medication injected into his shoulder; it made his arm "feel like a noodle."

After Hall separated his shoulder on a hit by Wyoming's John Fletcher in Laramie, Morris asked Hall to come in for treatments three times a day. He complied by appearing in the training room more than 20 times leading up to the Utah game. Part of the treatment included packs of tobacco to reduce the bruising inside his shoulder, massage and pool work.

Mendenhall credited Hall for a remarkable recovery from his injury at Wyoming in time for the Utah game. Hall easily could have missed the rest of the season and been back for only a bowl game.

"I don't know all the differences in the degrees (separation)," said Mendenhall. "All I know is both Max and the training staff worked harder than any I've seen since Aaron Francisco came back from an ACL. His will and toughness was beyond what I thought was possible. To compare it (Hall and Ute Johnson) would be unfair. All I know is Max did a phenomenal job and he had a lot of help from his backs and line, who took a special interest in protecting him."

Hall said he felt better and more confident as the game wore on.


"Hey, I grew up with farmers — they were tough," said Hall, who joked that he ran around with gang members, too. " If you weren't strong, you got pink belly," Hall said.

Hall, riding the strength of a talented cast around him, is one game from achieving what it took John Beck to do in four years on Saturday. During Beck's career, he waded through the worst period of BYU football in 35 years to finally lead the Cougars to an undefeated MWC title in 2006 as a senior. Hall can accomplish the same league MWC record with just 11 games under his belt in San Diego.

COUGAR NOTES: MWC officials have been flooded with complaints that Commissioner Craig Thompson did not present BYU the MWC trophy on Saturday after the Cougars' 17-10 win. Thompson was in the press box for the game, on the sidelines at the end and stood next to BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson on the stage during the presentation, but BYU folks decided athletic director Tom Holmoe would make the presentation of the trophy, likely to avoid boos from BYU fans over the league TV deal. ... The Cougars rank first in the conference and 48th in scoring offense (29.8 ppg), stand No. 11 nationally in passing offense, No. 9 in the NCAA in total defense (302.7 ypg) and rushing defense (94.3 ypg) and No. 20 in total offense (450.3 ypg).

Cougars on the air

No. 21 BYU (9-2, 7-0) at San Diego St. (4-7, 3-4)

Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

Qualcomm Stadium

Radio: 1160AM, 102.7FM

TV: The mtn.