PROVO — BYU is on a four-game winning streak — its most recent victory a 47-46 heart-stopper over Houston reminiscent of wacky WAC shootouts of decades past. Although the Cougars in blue squeaked by the Cougars wearing red, a win is a win, and they gladly took it, improving to 5-2 on the season.
Taysom Hill had another excellent performance. Despite throwing three interceptions (one of which was a pick six), he passed for 417 yards, four touchdowns and netted 128 rushing yards on 34 carries. Hill actually gained 194 rushing yards, but lost a lot of yards on sacks.
Brigham Young now turns its attention to a contest against the 5-2 Boise State Broncos at 6 p.m. MDT on Friday at LaVell Edwards Stadium. ESPN will televise the game.
In anticipation of the showdown, here are 10 must-know facts and stats about BYU and Boise State.
Michael Chase is a Deseret News contributor and graduate of Dixie State University. He is the owner of Mike's Professional Editing LLC. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Boise State leads the series, 3-0. The first meeting was in Provo in 2003, and the Broncos handled and humiliated the Cougars easily, 50-12. The following season, BYU traveled to Boise and kept the game much closer. Matt Payne missed what would have been a game-winning field goal, and the Cougars lost, 28-27.
The third meeting was also in Boise and was also a one-point win for the Broncos. This time the final score was 7-6. Taysom Hill scored BYU’s only touchdown of the game, and a failed two-point conversion resulted in a heartbreaking loss for the Cougars.
• BYU averages 31.7 points per game; its opponents have averaged 21.4 ppg.
• Boise State averages 39.9 points per game; its opponents have averaged 22.9 ppg.
• BYU ranks 14th nationally in total offense, averaging 503.0 yards per game (240.0 passing yards and 263.0 rushing yards).
• Boise State ranks 18th nationally in total offense, averaging 494.4 yards per game (270.4 passing yards and 224.0 rushing yards).
• BYU’s opponents average 366.0 yards per game (230.6 passing yards and 135.4 rushing yards).
• Boise State’s opponents average 392.9 yards per game (240.8 passing yards and 152.1 rushing yards).
• Statistically, both teams have better rush defenses than pass defenses. The team with the better front seven on defense has a good chance of winning this game.
• How each team’s secondary plays will also be important. At least on paper, BYU has a slightly better secondary. But on the field this season, BYU’s secondary has been vulnerable and exposed, giving up several big passing plays and allowing Houston to gain 435 passing yards. Boise State’s defense is allowing about the same number of passing yards that BYU’s passing offense produces per game (240), while BYU’s defense is holding its opponents to about 230 passing yards per game, which is 40 fewer yards than Boise State’s passing offense generates per game (270).
• By the numbers, both teams are almost evenly matched. BYU has the home field advantage, but anything can happen.
Running back Jamaal Williams left the Houston game early with a hip injury, and safety Craig Bills missed the Houston game to recover from a concussion. It will help BYU tremendously if these two talented athletes can play in Friday’s game.
Meanwhile, Boise State’s starting quarterback Joe Southwick went down with an ankle injury during the Broncos’ 34-17 win over Nevada. Grant Hedrick replaced Southwick and had an impressive performance against the Wolfpack, completing 18 of 21 passes for 150 yards. He also rushed for two touchdowns and 115 yards on eight carries.
Friday’s matchup should be entertaining because Hedrick has a skill set similar to Taysom Hill’s.
This issue has been pointed out repeatedly, but BYU’s offensive line has been streaky at best this season.
Despite an outstanding BYU offensive performance in the Houston game, Taysom Hill was sacked eight times for a loss of 66 yards. Moreover, the Cougars’ were penalized for several false starts. Simply put, BYU’s offense line needs to do a better job of protecting Hill and reducing costly penalties.
BYU enjoys a stable of gifted runners, including Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams, Adam Hine and Algie Brown.
So does Boise State. Backup quarterback Grant Hedrick demonstrated his rushing abilities against Nevada, as did running back Jay Ajayi, who rushed for three touchdowns and 222 yards on 24 carries. Ajayi averages 109.4 rushing yards per game and has scored 12 touchdowns so far this season.
Cody Hoffman is on pace to become BYU’s all-time leading receiver in several categories. In the Houston game, he surpassed Dennis Pitta’s record of 221 career receptions to become the all-time school leader.
Hoffman now has 228 career catches. He also scored a touchdown against Houston and is now tied with Austin Collie for the BYU record of 30 career touchdown passes caught. Hoffman needs only 71 more receiving yards to surpass Collie’s school record of 3,255 career receiving yards.
This season, BYU is -3 in turnover margin, while Boise State is +3. BYU’s only turnover-free game was against Georgia Tech. The Cougars can’t afford to turn the ball over to a team as talented as Boise State. BYU was fortunate indeed to get a victory over Houston, since Houston leads the nation in turnover margin at +14.
Boise State ranks fifth in the nation in third-down conversion percentage. The Broncos have converted 59 of 109 third-down attempts (54.1 percent). In contrast, BYU ranks 98th nationally in this facet of the game, converting only 43 of its 127 third-down attempts (33.9 percent).
This year, BYU’s offense has had a tendency to run the ball on first and second down for either minimal gains or significant losses and penalties, thus setting up difficult third-and-long situations. The team that is more successful at moving the sticks on third down will likely have a better chance of winning the game.
On average, Boise State is penalized 3.71 times for 37.57 yards per game. In comparison, BYU is penalized 8.00 times for 66.71 yards per game. Obviously, BYU must cut down on its mistakes if it is going to have a good chance of beating Boise State for the first time.