BYU football was hoping to progress to a 5-0 record and in the campaign for Taysom Hill as Heisman winner. But the BYU football program lost not only its winning record, but its star quarterback to an unlikely opponent.
The Cougars were strong in the first quarter, scoring a touchdown on just their first possession. After the opening touchdown the mood was light in LaVell Edwards Stadium, as Cougar fans believed it was going to be another easy win on their home turf.
After fumbling on its first possession, USU regained confidence on its second possession, marching down the field and answering with a touchdown. The second quarter began with a tight 7-7 score. Hill connected with receiver Mitch Matthews for another touchdown, putting BYU ahead 14-7, the last time it would be ahead for the rest of the game.
The Aggies answered with quarterback Darell Garretson driving bullet passes down the field to score another answering touchdown. After that it was nothing but trouble for the Cougars, as USU demonstrated its strength with another touchdown off of a 22-yard pass and then yet another off of a strong and unexpected 72-yard pass following a BYU turnover. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Toward the end of the second quarter, after attempting a run to gain a first down, Hill went down after an awkward tackle, grabbing for his leg as he lay on the field.
Hill was carted off the field with a look of sheer pain on his face. Medical personnel served head coach Bronco Mendenhall grim news after examining Hill: the quarterback’s leg was broken.
“Of course it’s a big loss for us,” said wide receiver Jordan Leslie after the game. “It knocks the wind out of us. He’s a leader; he’s a great athlete.”
Backup quarterback Christian Stewart, a senior who had seen minimal playing time at BYU previously, replaced Hill in the third quarter.
BYU had a chance to make and execute some plays early in the third quarter but was unable to capitalize on the opportunities, keeping the score at dismal 28-14 and eventually turning over the ball in an interception thrown by Stewart to give USU yet another chance to score.
By the end of the night BYU’s only focus was to stop the bleeding, after four turnovers and nine penalties showed the many missed opportunities. The final score was 35-20, leaving BYU without its star quarterback and with broken hopes of an undefeated season and a drop off the rankings.
The team is trying to not dwell on the loss and look forward to the rest of the season.
“We want to beat UCF and not think about the loss,” said wide receiver Mitch Matthews. “Losing is a growing experience, and it helps you learn. It’s tough that we lost, but it’s time to move on.”
The Cougars head to University of Central Florida to take on the Knights Thursday night in a game that will hopefully allow BYU to adjust to a team without Hill and give it a clean attempt at another win. Mendenhall hopes to have Stewart ready and adjusted in time for his new position as starting quarterback.
Hill went into surgery Oct. 4, where doctors inserted eight screws and one plate into his fractured left leg. Additionally, major ligaments were shredded, said head coach Bronco Mendenhall in a press conference Oct. 6.
“It was two hours worth of surgery, (doctors) knew it was bad, but when they got into it, it was worse,” Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall also mentioned the loss of starting linebacker Alani Fua, starting safety Dallin Leavitt and starting guard Brayden Kearsley to high ankle sprains. Their status is still unknown.