Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
PROVO — The 2012 BYU football season was a year of unexpected stories. It was the year of BYU’s best defense ever, new breakout stars, another quarterback dilemma and injuries.
When the season began, BYU fans had high hopes for senior quarterback Riley Nelson and a strong defense with many returning players.
However, as the season played out, some of the expectations were met and others were not.
The highlight of the season was BYU’s defense, which finished as one of the top defenses in the country.
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments was during the Boise State game when the defense held Boise State on the 1-yard line four times.
Junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy continued to improve this season and once again proved he is a strong force. Van Noy finished the season with many tackles, fumbles, interceptions and quarterback sacks.
With Van Noy having such an outstanding season, he is considering declaring a year early for the NFL Draft.
Senior Brandon Ogletree was often overlooked when discussing the defense. Ogletree finished the season as BYU’s top tackler.
This year also became the year for new offensive and defensive stars, namely freshman running back Jamaal Williams and senior linebacker Ezekial “Ziggy” Ansah.
During the beginning of the season, Williams saw few plays but performed well. However, during the Hawaii game, junior running back Michael Alisa broke his arm and was out for the rest of the season. This gave Williams a chance to show Cougar fans just what he could do.
Williams quickly proved that even though he was a 17-year-old, he could play football with the big kids.
Williams also became BYU’s top freshman rusher.
Ansah is the Cinderella story of the BYU team. When Ansah came to BYU from Ghana, he did not know how to play football, let alone how to put on his pads.
In his four short years on the team, Ansah has become one of the most talked about players on the team and is predicted to go during the first round of the NFL Draft.
Like many other players, Ansah earned his starting role when senior Eathyn Manumaleuna got injured.
Perhaps one of the most memorable stories of the 2012 season is the quarterback situation. This will forever be remembered as the season of injured quarterbacks and is the reason many Cougar fans will ask, “What if?”
Senior quarterback Nelson took some hard hits in the second game of the season against Weber State and broke his back. Nelson played the Utah game and most of the Boise State game despite a severe injury. Both of these games were losses for BYU, which many credit to Nelson’s injury.
Freshman Taysom Hill stepped in during the Boise State game for Nelson and led BYU on its one scoring drive of the game. Hill started against both Hawaii and Utah State and won both of those games.
Things were starting to look right for the Cougars again with Hill performing well and Nelson healing. However, on an unnecessary last play of the Utah State game, Hill suffered a season-ending injury to his knee.
Nelson continued to play throughout the season, although his play was not his best. During the San Jose State game, Nelson was injured again, this time injuring his ribs.
For the season’s last regular game and for the bowl game, senior James Lark started for the Cougars and led the team to victories both times.
While many BYU fans praise Hill and Lark for their play and bash Nelson for his play, it should be remembered Nelson was the starter for a reason.
If Nelson had remained healthy all season, this season may have played out differently. One lesson learned this season is that a healthy quarterback is much better than an unhealthy one.
Junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman was another player who met and exceeded expectations this year. Despite having to learn to play with three different quarterbacks, Hoffman was always there and ready to catch the ball and make clutch plays.
Hoffman finished the season fifth on BYU’s all time receiving yards.
Like Van Noy, Hoffman is also considering forgoing his senior year to enter the NFL Draft.
When looking back at the season, what were the lessons Cougar fans learned?
The main lesson learned is that BYU is becoming a school that has one of the most powerful defenses in the nation. While many of the defensive starters are seniors, there are some returning players who will work to continue the legacy of this defense. The future of the defense is in good hands.
Another lesson learned is that BYU’s offense had a shaky season but has a good future. With all but three starters returning, the offense will continue to improve next season.
Also, with Hill becoming the quarterback next year, the Cougars will have a quarterback who is experienced in starting and knows how to execute.
The overall biggest lesson learned this season is while it may not have been the season fans were hoping for, it was a good season, and the future is even brighter at BYU.
Ashley Anderson is a senior at BYU majoring in public relations with the hope of one day having a career in sports public relations.