It’s been a long time coming. I know this is going to be my last college season opener and I’m here to make the most of it and make sure my preparation will allow me to be successful. —BYU quarterback Taysom Hill
LINCOLN, Neb. — When BYU opened the season two years ago, in Robert Anae’s return as offensive coordinator, the Cougars scored 16 points in a loss at Virginia.
In the season opener a year ago, BYU rolled up 35 points in a win over Connecticut.
In Year Three of Anae’s “Go Fast, Go Hard” offense, what can the Cougars’ experienced offense do when it battles Nebraska Saturday (1:30 p.m., MT, ABC)?
The best news for BYU is the return of senior quarterback Taysom Hill, who returns from a season-ending leg injury. Saturday marks his first game in 11 months.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Hill said. “I know this is going to be my last college season opener and I’m here to make the most of it and make sure my preparation will allow me to be successful.”
Hill’s presence inspires confidence, no matter the opponent.
“He’s not a guy that gets rattled. The first play, he’s sharp,” said quarterbacks coach Jason Beck. “The nerves don’t get to him. He starts fast and plays well. Everybody knows that with No. 4 in there, we have a great opportunity to win every game.”
Beck added that Hill will be smart when he runs the ball.
“We’ve emphasized getting out of bounds and getting down,” he said. “But he’ll be fine. He’s going to have a great year.”
Hill is surrounded by a bunch of veterans that feel comfortable in the offense. Anae said the “Go Fast, Go Hard” approach is part of the culture.
"That is who we are, and when I first started three years ago, we were not that,” Anae said. “So, to the players' credit, that is just naturally who they are now. When they come into this program, when we train, when we see the world, that is who they are."
The Cougars are hoping to pick up where they left off before Hill’s injury.
“A lot of the guys are three-year starters coming back. We have a lot of experience,” said running back Adam Hine. “We feel like we can hit it right off the bat. We want to start strong and finish strong. That’s what we’re looking to do.”
With Jamaal Williams withdrawing from school before fall camp, BYU is taking a running-back-by-committee approach with Hine, Algernon Brown and Nate Carter.
“I think you’ll see Algie and Adam Hine really breaking out and having good years at the running back spot,” Beck said. “We’ll see more of Nate Carter and (freshman) Francis Bernard is a young guy who will have a bigger role than he would have had earlier.”
Hill will depend on his stable of versatile receivers, including Mitch Mathews and Nick Kurtz.
“My history with BYU is they’ve always done a nice job with play-action pass anyway, and they isolate receivers,” said Nebraska coach Mike Riley. “They’ve got the big guys out there, 6-6, they call (them) the twin towers, so the isolation with them with good play-action is what they’re after."
Meanwhile, Hill and the offense is expecting a strong test from the Cornhusker defense.
“A big, physical team. A typical Nebraska team,” Hill said. “When I think of Nebraska, from watching them play, I think of big guys up front and physical linebackers and an athletic secondary. That’s what we expect. That’s who they’ve been. I don’t anticipate anything changing.”
“They are a big, physical team on both sides of the ball. That’s their strength,” Beck said. “They have a good secondary. We need to throw it on time and be decisive. They have good players.”
BYU’s offensive line will need to hold off a talented Nebraska front.
“It’s about showcasing our talents,” said Cougar left tackle Ryker Mathews. “I think a lot of people look at us as the big, white Mormon kids. People like to put us in the dirt. I think we’re a lot better than a lot of teams think and a lot of analysts think. It’s going to be our chance to showcase that.”
Hill is excited about what this offense — and his team — can accomplish.
“I honestly say this is the most talented team I’ve played with. Number one because of the experience we have offensively,” he said. “Number two, they’ve had years to mature and they’re really good athletes. A big difference I’ve noticed has been how unified both the offense and defenses have been. We really are going into Nebraska as a team and it’s been really fun to be a part of.”