Young freshmen leading the BYU football team


When football fans hear the news of a 17-year-old running back rushing for 155 yards and two touchdowns on a 10.3 yards-per-carry average, they will usually check which high school he played for.

When they find out the freshman was Jamaal Williams of BYU in a division-I college football game, the ears may prick up a bit more.

Williams ran all over the Hawaii defense on Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium, making defenders look silly and adding prestige to a young but promising career in Provo, as the Cougars took care of business 47-0.

“It felt pretty good, to be 17 and have them trust me like that,” Williams said. “It seems they really believe in me, and I’m glad to be on this team.”

Jamaal Williams, No. 21, avoids Hawaii’s defensive line and runs during Friday’s game at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

To further fuel the freshman fire, Williams wasn’t the only first-year player to have a dominating performance. True freshman quarterback Taysom Hill contributed 143 yards and a touchdown on the ground along with 112 yards and two more touchdowns through the air in his first career start, filling in for the injured Riley Nelson.

“I was happy with the way I played,” Hill said. “We made some plays. I made some mistakes, but I think we came out and started fast. It was phenomenal to come out and win the way we did.”

Hill’s foot speed was on impressive display during the second quarter, as he took a snap, dropped back a few steps and then took off right through the middle of the Hawaii defense, outrunning the entire secondary en route to a 68-yard touchdown run.

The 143 yards rushing is the third most by a quarterback in the country during the 2012 season to this point, behind Michigan’s Denard Robinson, who ran for 218 against Air Force, and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, who rushed for 168 against Miami (OH). Oh and by the way, both Robinson and Miller have started for their respective teams for at least two seasons now. It is also the first time that a BYU quarterback has rushed for 100 yards since current offensive coordinator Brandon Doman accomplished it in 2001.

“We’ve worked really hard. We still have room to grow to build depth at all positions, and grooming younger players,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “You got a snapshot here and there tonight, but we’re finding players who belong at BYU and who want to be here for all the right reasons.”

Williams’ 155 yards rush is the first time a BYU running back has reached the century mark since Josh Quezada did it in the New Mexico Bowl in 2010. Williams replaced junior starter Michael Alisa in the first quarter, after the latter broke his forearm.

“I didn’t know it was that bad,” Williams said. “I knew he was injured for that play, so I thought just go in for that one. But when (Alisa) told me he was injured, I knew I had to step up and play my role whatever it was, and carry the ball and block for Taysom.”

The two freshmen weren’t the only first-year players to make an impact in Friday’s game. Freshman defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi recovered a Hawaii fumble and put pressure on Warrior quarterback Sean Schroeder to throw the ball sooner than he would have liked.

Sophomore running back Paul Lasike had 10 carries for 40 yards and two touchdowns near the end of the game. While a sophomore, this is Lasike’s first year with the team, as he converted from rugby this year.

“It was nice to play a lot of different players,” Mendenhall said. “(Williams) has this great vision, and he’s a great athlete. I think we’ve seen that in the few touches he’s had up to this point, but (he) hasn’t been the featured back. So Jamaal made the most of his opportunity. You saw Paul Lasike come in at the end. He’s been a battering ram beating us up defensive as a scout running back. He has a really bright future.”

Even with Hill’s impressive performance, Mendenhall said if Nelson can play, he will be the starter going forward for the BYU team. However, it will be interesting to see the BYU offense if both Hill and Williams need to step into large starting positions against a superior Utah State team on Oct. 5 in Provo.

“It’s a tough situation to be in, to know it’s not our call,” Hill said. “We’ll prepare like we’re the starters, and if we’re called upon, we’ll try to step up and do our best.”

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