This was a vintage Taysom Hill performance. Hill looks like he has taken the next step as a quarterback, finishing the night 28/36 for 307 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. Hill also was BYU’s leading rusher, tallying 97 yards on 11 carries and 2 touchdowns on the ground. His QB Rating of 177.1 was a career high for the junior.
No Jamaal Williams, no problem. With Williams left behind in Provo due to suspension, Algernon Brown, Paul Lasike, and Adam Hine stepped up. Lasike got the start officially and finished the game with 9 carries for 49 yards. Algie Brown flashed soft hands, tallying 4 receptions for 44 yards, while also bringing the hammer running the ball as he picked 35 yards on 6 carries but did fumble when he failed to cover the ball up on a run in the 2nd half. Hine was the only back to get into the endzone on a touchdown pass from Taysom Hill. Hine had 3 receptions for 25 yards and the TD while also carrying the ball 6 times for 15 yards. Nate Carter got a late cameo in garbage time, carrying the ball 3 times for 4 yards.
BYU’s wide receivers looked like a brand new unit with an improved Taysom Hill slinging the rock around to them. Mitch Mathews led the way with 6 receptions for 62 yards and a TD on a 26 yard pass from Hill. Mathews did fumble the ball away to UConn in the 2nd quarter which the Huskies turned into 7 points. Colby Pearson made some nice plays, finishing the night with 3 catches for 47 yards. Jordan Leslie didn’t get the ball passed his way much, only seeing a couple of targets but capitalized by snagging both passes for 22 yards. Mitchell Juergens saw a lot of time in the slot and responded with 2 receptions for 19 yards and even carried the ball once on a jet sweep for 5 yards. Juergens looks like he’ll be receiving more reps going forward. Terenn Houk had a breakout performance in the win. Houk finished the night with 58 yards on 4 receptions and scored a touchdown with an impressive individual performance to get down the sideline for the score. BYU fans probably forgot that Nick Kurtz and Devon Blackmon were missing from this game, which is a testament to the play of the receivers.
The question was asked often throughout the offseason if the tight end position would see more action for BYU in 2014. Devin Mahina only registering 1 catch for 8 yards indicates it might be more of the same for BYU tight ends. Mahina had a holding call where he was beat in max protect but other than his catch and penalty, there wasn’t much to take away.
BYU’s offensive line was much maligned throughout the offseason and entered the UConn game with multiple question marks. True freshmen Ului Lapuaho and Tejan Koroma got the start in their first career collegiate games at left tackle and center, respectively. Koroma struggled with some cramping issues in the middle of the game but acquitted himself well. Kyle Johnson got the start at left guard and was steady. De’Ondre Wesley had a solid game at right tackle. Brock Stringham struggled. He had multiple holding penalties and a personal foul penalty called on him, albeit the personal foul call looked to be a tad harsh. Brayden Kearsley played well at both right guard and right tackle. Edward Fusi had his moments at guard but looks like he’s still getting comfortable and the position after spending most of fall camp at center. Terrance Alletto saw spot duty at center in relief of Koroma and struggled with some low snaps and was beat on a couple of plays early one, but responded with better play later in the contest.
Overall it was a step in the right direction for the offensive line as they allowed Taysom Hill to step up into a pocket and deliver throws, while also paving the way for BYU to total 205 rushing yards on the ground.
BYU’s defensive line didn’t have a lot of big names on it coming into 2014 but they made sure the UConn Huskies know who they were. Graham Rowley and Remington Peck turned in great performances at defensive end even though their efforts will not be rewarded on the stat sheet. Travis Tuiloma looked great at nose tackle, flashing the ability to both stuff the run and also pressure the quarterback. Logan Taele is still learning the nose tackle position but showed some promise. BYU didn’t miss senior nose tackle Marques Johnson as some feared due to his suspension. Overall BYU limited UConn to only 71 total rushing yards.
BYU’s linebackers showed the world that it wasn’t just Uani ‘Unga and Kyle Van Noy that made BYU great last season. Bronson Kaufusi made the shift to outside linebacker and was a terror on the edge all night long, collecting 2 sacks and a fumble recovery. Michael Alisa is back at outside linebacker and made some nice plays tonight. Alani Fua had high expectations heaped upon him and had an up-and-down performance. He collected an unsportsmanlike penalty for celebrating a tackle in the 4th quarter which extended an UConn drive, resulting in a field goal for the Huskies.
Jherremya Leuta-Douyere set the tone for BYU early when he forced a fumble on UConn’s first offensive play. JLD made plays all over the field form his inside linebacker position. Zac Stout had a solid performance, laying the wood on UConn quarterback Casey Cochran as he tried to scramble in the 3rd quarter. Teu Kautai made a positive impression and should see more reps going forward. Kautai had a nice pass breakup to end a Husky drive in the 2nd quarter.
Craig Bills is a team captain for BYU and for good reason. All the senior KAT safety does is lead by example. Bills was solid in pass coverage outside of a pass interference call in the endzone, which some might have debated if the pass was catchable. He did collect an interception which extended BYU’s streak of games with at least one interception to 11 games, one short of the BYU record in the Bronco Mendenhall era. Dallin Leavitt had a solid night, laying some hard hits on Husky running backs and receivers alike. Leavitt did have a roughing the passer penalty that nullified a pass breakup and interception for BYU. Skye PoVey saw a lot of time and was the weak link for BYU tonight. UConn caught onto him being unable to defend the pass and attacked him. Luckily, BYU was able to help him out with a ferocious pass rush and the other secondary players plugged the gaps. Kai Nacua and Harvey Jackson saw time in a reserve role and didn’t leave much of an impression.
BYU starting cornerbacks Jordan Johnson and Robertson Daniel did not make the trip to UConn and many BYU fans worried if BYU would hold up in coverage. Michael Davis and Jordan Preator answered the bell for BYU for the most part. Both struggled initially against talented UConn receivers Geremy Davis and Deshon Foxx but they improved as the night went on. Late in the game the Huskies tried to pick on Preator and he recorded two impressive pass breakups. Michael Davis’ shift to cornerback looks to be a stroke of genius and it looks like he could have a future in the NFL at that position should he continue to improve and progress.
Overall Team Grade: B+
BYU played a solid game, coming out of the gates fast on offense and while things lagged in the 3rd and 4th quarters, they put the final nail in the coffin with a nice 6 play, 90 yard drive, capped off with a Taysom Hill touchdown run with 4:06 to go in the game. BYU’s defense held UConn to 355 total yards and more importantly 10 points. It was a good performance for BYU to build on as they travel to Austin, Texas next week for a date with the Texas Longhorns.