Quarterback Hill leads BYU against Texas

Jori Epstein

Before Brigham Young quarterback Taysom Hill steps on the field each week, he prepares himself mentally. Imagining his ideal outcome for each game, Hill sets goals that generally fade away alongside the minutes on the clock—until last year’s BYU-Texas matchup, when Hill’s 259 rushing yards helped notch a program-record 550 total rushing yards in the Cougars’ 40-21 victory. That game went just as Hill
had hoped.

“Honestly, that’s what I imagined—being able to pull reads and break into open field—so that was surreal,” Hill said. “It was like I could see a childhood dream come true. Everyone wants to play a team like Texas with a reputation, ranked number 15 at the time. You imagine it and talk about it as you grow up.”

Though he’d spent plenty of time imagining a dominant win against Texas, Hill says he didn’t expect it going into the match last year. Ironically, it was during the first of just two drives that put Texas in the lead during the game, when Hill realized his team would win. He said their production and fun fit just one appropriate description: the Brigham Young Cougars were in the zone.

“Our mindset is we can compete with anyone in the country, which can be said for pretty much any D-I school out there,” Hill said. “You have the talent. So if you have the preparation, you can compete.”

Hill did more than just compete against the Longhorns last year when he recorded 259 rushing yards, averaging 15.2 yards per carry. But his performance last year isn’t enough in the eyes of Cougar fans, who know the stakes of this year’s game. Texas views the game as a time for revenge, hungry to redeem themselves after last year’s embarrassment. The Cougars take the match seriously for another reason: it’s their best chance at national recognition this season. As an independent school, BYU only scheduled two top-tier opponents in 2014: Texas and Virginia. To combat the lighter schedule, Hill said, the Cougars feel increased pressure to win every game. Their goal for Saturday: score at least 12 points each half.

“Going on the road and playing in a stadium as big [as Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium], there’s definitely an advantage for the home team,” Hill said. “That being said, our mindset has not changed. We expect to go into the game cool and calm, go in and move
the ball.”

To accomplish that, Hill has spent the offseason studying his playmakers to better understand what his key players do and how to put them in positions to succeed. A better understanding of his teammates paid off against Connecticut last week, when Hill completed more than 77 percent of his passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns. That passing performance doesn’t resemble the storied game against Texas whatsoever. Throwing 10 fewer passes in 2013 with a completion rate below 35 percent, Hill didn’t pose the passing threat then that he does now. His ability to run and pass at an elite level only widens the gap between he and Texas sophomore Tyrone Swoopes , who will be making his first career start in place of the injured David Ash
this week. 

While facing an inexperienced quarterback may alleviate some of the pressure, Hill says the pressure from media and fans is much higher this year.

“Last year gave the team and me a lot of national exposure and attention,” Hill said. “Now we have to manage expectations of people around campus.”

Hill doesn’t mind the expectations, saying no one has higher expectations than he holds for himself. But he feels what he calls a “buzz on campus,” as professors express their support and classmates shake his hand, wishing him good luck against the Longhorns. 

“My big mindset going into the game is one play at a time,” Hill said. “It doesn’t do us a lot of good to dwell on negative things and get a snowball negative effect. We just need to go win the
next play.”