After a 31-16 loss to Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 27, the BYU football team finished the 2013 season with a record of 8–5. Considering the rich history of BYU football that has included a national championship and nine straight bowl appearances, some might look at the season as mediocre.
The Cougars, however, were anything but mediocre, setting records left and right with an almost unstoppable rushing offense. When the youth of the 2013 team is taken into account, the 2014 team starts to look promising in a spine-tingling way.
The Cougars were led on offense by two sophomores. One, quarterback Taysom Hill, became the first quarterback in BYU history to rush for 1,000 yards. He balanced his dangerous rushing attack by throwing for almost 3,000 yards on the season, coming up just 62 yards short of a mark that would put him in a category with only five other players in college football history. He finished 18th in the nation in rushing yards, with 1,344 yards, joining Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch and Navy’s Keenan Reynolds as the only quarterbacks in the top 20. He also finished eighth in the country in total offensive yards, with a combined 4,282 yards.
Hill exploded onto the national scene in the second game of the year at home against Texas. He rushed for 259 yards — second most in school history — and found the end zone three times on the ground. Hill’s effort was part of a dismantling of the then-No. 15 Longhorns, which resulted in 550 total rushing yards. He also added 129 yards through the air, single-handedly accounting for 388 yards.
That game, combined with his overall performance on the year, had some analysts claiming Hill was on the fast track to being a Heisman Trophy candidate during the next two seasons. But Hill took the comment in stride.
“It’s a great honor and great privilege to me, but I don’t worry about (the talk),” Hill said. “I don’t worry about the stats. The only stat I think about is the win-loss column; that’s what’s important to me. I’m a sophomore, and I’ve got a few more years to go, so we’ll see what happens.”
Hill wasn’t the only Cougar to explode out of the cannon. Fellow sophomore running back Jamaal Williams also rushed for 1,000 yards on the season, as the duo’s performance became the first time in BYU history that two players each rushed for 1,000 yards in the same season. Williams rushed for 1,233 yards and seven touchdowns on the year, as his best game came in the regular season finale at Nevada. He rushed for a career-high 219 yards and a touchdown.
Senior wide receiver Cody Hoffman literally rewrote the BYU record book, claiming the top spot in every receiving category this season. His career numbers are impressive, having notched 260 receptions for 3,612 yards and 33 touchdowns. His ability to make the catch in even the most difficult of situations (he made several catches even with the defender being flagged for pass interference), combined with his imposing size (6’4″, 210 pounds), will make him attractive to NFL scouts for the upcoming NFL Draft. Hoffman thanked BYU fans after his final game against the Huskies.
“All I can say is thank you everyone who has supported me since I’ve been at BYU and growing up,” Hoffman posted on his Twitter account after the game. “Couldn’t have done it without you.”
Despite losing two of its first three games to teams who had subpar seasons against Virginia and Utah, the Cougars responded strongly by winning games against Texas, Middle Tennessee, Utah State, Georgia Tech, Houston and Boise State, all of whom went on to play in bowl games. BYU beat those teams by an average of 16.5 points, showing the potential this offense has to light it up again in 2014 in an easier schedule. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said the season was a success, even with the bowl game loss.
“I think the program made progress this year, regardless of the outcome of this game,” Mendenhall said. “Offensively, we established a new identity, played harder and united a team. Productivity-wise, we were much better.”
While the Cougars will lose such great contributors like Hoffman, All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy, fellow defensive stars Spencer Hadley and Eathyn Manumaleuna and a solid kicker in Justin Sorensen, the team remains much the same next year, giving fans a vision of what could be attained as the postseason format changes from BCS bowl games to a four-team playoff.