The traditional BYU passing game was nearly extinct. After four games of the 2013 season, receivers were not catching passes.
As BYU was trying to establish its new offense with Taysom Hill behind center, the running game was much more intuitive and successful. BYU receivers were being used most effectively as blockers.
Occasional passes thrown in the receivers’ direction were often overthrown or dropped. Sideline disputes between Hill and his receivers became commonplace. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae defended Hill and said the receivers needed to step up.
“It’s up to the receivers to get open,” Anae said. “And then when it comes their way, they need to catch the ball.”
Between games against Middle Tennessee and Utah State, something clicked. Perhaps it was simply the result of hours in the film room and on the practice field. Maybe it was greater effort and determination. Whatever it was, it started a stretch of big plays and games from BYU receivers.
Mitch Matthews torched Utah State for 112 yards and three touchdowns. He got behind the defense early and often and reeled in passes when they came his way. Matthews said it was about time for the receivers to play a bigger role.
“Everyone on this team’s been waiting for it,” he said after the game.
Against Georgia Tech, five separate targets pulled in at least two catches. It was Cody Hoffman’s 2013 breakout performance, with five receptions for 99 yards. His diving 45-yard touchdown catch with a Georgia Tech defensive back hanging on him set the tone for a big win.
Oct. 19, against Houston, Skyler Ridley stepped into the limelight with seven receptions in traffic, including the game-winning touchdown. Ross Apo finally made his presence known with two touchdown receptions. Not to mention, Cody Hoffman ended the game with 156 yards, a new BYU career record for receptions with 228, and a share of the school record for career touchdown receptions with 30. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall was particularly happy with his receivers after the game.
“Our receivers were making spectacular catches all over the place,” he said.
In the last three games, 11 different BYU receivers have caught passes from Hill. The corps has totaled 939 yards and eight touchdowns. The traditional BYU passing game appears to be alive and well, and remaining foes should be wary.