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PROVO — Friday night's game against Hawaii gave BYU a much-needed victory on its home turf.
In a 47-0 shutout, the Cougars presented an offense worth being proud of, a quarterback who can run just as far as he can throw and a defensive unit that finally snagged an interception.
On offense, freshman quarterback Taysom Hill repped the quarterback position against Hawaii due to Riley Nelson's back injury.
Disregarding the fact that Hawaii is not the most difficult opponent BYU will face this season, Hill wooed Cougar fans with 112 passing yards, 156 rushing yards and even a few punting yards (31). But the cherry on top of the freshman from Idaho's performance was a long TD run. Just over halfway through the second quarter, Hill scooted 68 yards for a touchdown.
Hill's contributions marked the first time in BYU history that a true freshman quarterback won his first start as a Cougar.
"I'm happy with the way we played," Hill said. "We made plays and some mistakes. I did throw that pick, but I'm still happy overall. I think this is the first time we have scored in the first drive, so that is a great thing."
Though the home team not only earned, but chiseled in its victory, and though certain players proved their contending ticket for positions, the question of who will don the starting-quarterback crown during next week's home game against Utah State is still up in the air.
That is, except for one person.
"Riley Nelson" was BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall's answer. "If Riley is capable and ready to play, than he will be our starter. He was hurt this week; he has been the whole week. So we made the decision to sit him out. If Riley plays like he has been playing, he won't get better, but he will improve with the rest. So that's what we're planning on. Taysom is doing his part, but there isn't as much history between he and I like there is between Riley and I. The biggest decision is going to be how Riley is feeling."
That's not to say that Hill didn't perform excellently in Mendenhall's mind; the head coach publicized his approval of Hill's progress in vision and poise.
Hill's remained humble about the possibility of being the starting quarterback, and his fondness for Nelson as a mentor is apparent.
"I'm not sure about starting. That is not my decision and I won't get caught up in that right now. Riley has been through this and has been a big help. He knows the team and what I was going into. He has been giving me pointers all week and was a set of eyes for me from the sideline all night."
BYU has used the dual-quarterback system before, and to many that seems the answer to the Hill-Nelson duel. In fact, Hawaii's head coach, Norm Chow, explained the uncertainty of the starting quarterback added more footage to watch between the two potential quarterbacks.
"We saw a little bit of tape," Chow said. "We knew (Hill) was a good runner. We weren't sure who was going to be the quarterback."
After tonight's game, Hill at the very least earned his consideration for the starting quarterback position in next week's game.
Friday, another freshman who stepped up after an injury to the starter was 17-year-old Jamaal Williams.
Michael Alisa, the starting running back, fractured his forearm early in the first quarter, so in came Williams, who ultimately contributed 156 yards and two touchdowns.
"It feels good to come in at 17 and to have everyone believe in me like they do," Williams said. "I didn't know that Mike (Alisa) was really injured, so when they told me, I knew I had to step up. Whether that meant carrying the ball or blocking for Taysom, I had to step up. I'm learning to mature fast through this."
As for his own thoughts on taking over the starting position, Williams said, "We don't really think about starting. We just think about what we need to do to improve and let the coaches make the decision."
The Cougars have a exactly a week to prepare for Utah State, an in-state foe that some claim to be the top team in Utah right now. The Aggies hold a 3-1 record — their one loss was a close one against the ever-formidable Wisconsin.
Defensive back Preston Hadley put it best when he said, "I don't think we should walk off jut patting ourselves on the back. This isn't the best game we have played. We still have a lot of work to do so we can get ready for Utah State this next week."