Prior to Thursday night when BYU football hosted Washington State on national television, Skyler Ridley and Taysom Hill had never played a down in a BYU uniform, and they rose to the occasion and shined in their career debuts.
Junior wide receiver Skyler Ridley was a two-sport athlete in high school playing football and baseball before coming to BYU in 2007 out of Murrietta, Calif. He chose BYU over UTEP, San Diego, Utah, Idaho and Utah State who also recruited him.
He redshirted in 2007, and upon returning from serving an LDS-church mission in the England Manchester Mission, he played on the scout team.
His first career reception came late in the first quarter with BYU threatening to score on second-and-goal from the seven yard line.
“I knew I was open breaking into the corner,” Ridley said as he smiled retelling the events leading up to his first catch. “My first thought was I hope I was in bounds, but when I heard the roar of the crowd, it felt so good to score that first touchdown. It was unreal.”
“One of the things I pride myself in is blocking,” Ridley said. “I made some blocks that led to big runs. Cody [Hoffman] and Ross [Apo] are big targets but when the ball gets thrown my way I will take those opportunities and make plays, but I want to do what I need to to help the team win. That’s my role.”
Junior Cody Hoffman and sophomore Ross Apo combined for 95 catches 1363 yards last season.
“[He’s] a great story,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a news conference referring to Ridley. “Our defensive players weren’t suprised… and now everybody else knows about him. He’s tough.”
True-freshman Taysom Hill is from Pocatello, Idaho where he was the 5A All-Idaho Player of the Year and led his team to the state championship as a senior. He was also recruited by Arizona, Boise State, Stanford, Utah and Washington State and committed to Stanford previous to serving an LDS-church mission in the Australia Sydney Mission.
Hill decomitted from Stanford, however, when Stanford requested him to leave four to five months early from his mission to be at Stanford in time for the 2011 season. After searching for other options to continue his football career, Hill found BYU to be his best fit.
On Thursday night, Hill was inserted into the game on a crucial fourth-and-one at the Washington State 18 yard line. The play called for Hill to take the snap and run the ball up the middle to pick up the one yard.
“I needed to change the play,” Hill said reflecting on what he saw that play.
He changed the play at the line, and took the snap and rolled out to his right.
“When the corner sucked up, I saw [tight end Kaneakua] Friel wide open and I hit him,” Hill said. “I was so excited to be in front of 60,000 fans and scoring on the first play was icing on the cake. Couldn’t have dreamed it any better.”
Hill finished the night 1-1 for 18 yards and one touchdown, and carried the ball twice for six yards. His passer rating of 581.2 actually leads the nation at this point, albeit after only one pass attempt, and Hill just chuckled when asked at practice about it.
“We trust him with the ball in his hands,” Mendenhall said in a news conference. “You will see him in critical moments. That’s what his role will be.”