EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Taysom Hill kind of glided into the end zone on his final touchdown in a convincing win over UConn at Rentschler Field Friday night.
He made it look easy, breaking out a little power, a spurt of speed, a stutter step here and cutback there. It was so late in the game and the UConn Husky defense looked like they’d absolutely had enough of Hill.
It was as if Hill was toying with the home team on that final drive that he capped by that 26-yard highlight run. Everyone in the stadium knew once he crossed the line of scrimmage, he’d gallop to a touchdown. With 4:06 to play, it was inevitable as the impending traffic jam in the parking lots.
A year ago in Charlottesville, Hill struggled with accuracy and missed his big target, suspended receiver Cody Hoffman, and although it appeared the Cougars would win anyway, a late interception led to a come-from-behind Virginia winning score.
This time on the East Coast, Hill took care of business. His passes were strikes. He confidently cut apart UConn’s defense, completing eight of his first nine passes. At the half, he had completed 85 percent of them, 17 of 20 with two obvious throw aways just to get rid of the ball. He targeted nine different receivers, led by junior Mitch Matthews, who had five catches for 62 yards.
Hill completed an impressive 28 of 36 for 308 yards and touchdown passes to Mathews, Terren Houke and Adam Hine. He made it look easy. For Matthews, it was a career-high night in catches in a game. He also found Paul Lasike, Colby Pearson, Jordan Leslie, Mitch Juergens and Devin Mahina. Only one targeted receiver dropped a pass.
Hill had a pass efficiency rating of 177.14 on the night. His completion percentage was 77.7 percent.
Opposite of what Texas might do next week, UConn elected to drop back in coverage and often sent only three pass rushers. Hill had plenty of time to look over the field, often throwing both designed passes off the run and passing when breaking out of the pocket. His eyes were downfield searching and his touch was spot on. He was not sacked.
Hill rushed 12 times for 98 yards and had runs of 7, 8 and 15 called back on penalties. It was easily a 400-yard total offense game.
“We weren’t as clean as we wanted to be but we did a lot of really good things we can build off of,” said Hill.
It was a calvacade of penalty flags Friday. BYU took first possession and scored, but in the first nine minutes of the game there were eight penalties. The Cougars had 15 flags for 150 yards and UConn had 8 for 90.
Plus, two BYU turnovers led directly to UConn’s point total.
“He had a good first game running, throwing it and extending it with his legs and he had that one touchdown to Terren Houk on a scramble,” said BYU quarterback coach Jason Beck.
“Hopefully we can clean things up,” he said. “They tried dropping eight, then went to cover two to see how he’d handle it. The most pleasing thing I liked with Taysom is how fast we started despite some adversity (penalties), we overcame and got down for that first score.”
But the sloppiness of the penalties loomed big in the minds of Beck and the rest of the staff. “We’ve got to go look at the film,” said offensive line coach Garrett Tujague. “We have to see what all that was about out there.”
UConn was improved and kept on task, but this Husky team is nothing what the Cougars expect in Austin next Saturday when the Longhorns are sure to be testy and anxious for revenge on the loss in Provo a year ago that lead to UT coaching changes.
In that regard, Hill and the rest of this squad have plenty to get criticized over in the film room and practice field in coming days.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said receivers coach Guy Holliday.
But for the moment Friday, the night certainly belonged to Hill.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at [email protected].