Loyal Cougars

Misses, drops, and throw-aways: The stats of BYU’s passing game

You’ve seen the headline stats already. Taysom Hill completed 13-of-40 passes in week one and 9-of-26 in week two. That adds up to an anemic 33% completion rate. In this post we’ll take a closer look at the 67% of passes that ended up incomplete.

Here is how I have broken down the incompletions:

– Throw aways — These are balls Hill intentionally threw away to avoid a sack

– Hit/Deflected — These are incompletions due to defenders hitting Hill while throwing or batting balls down at the line

– Drops — These are passes that were on target but the receiver failed to hang on to (includes one interception)

– Misses — These are passes that the receiver had no legitimate shot at catching (one interception here too)

Please note that some of these stats are my judgement calls, like whether a pass was really catchable or not.


  Virginia      Texas       Total             %
Throw aways 2 1 3 4.55%
Hit/Deflected 4 1 5 7.58%
Drops 10 3 13 19.70%
Misses 11 12 23 34.85%


The good news is that BYU receivers held on to the ball much better in week 2. The bad news is that Hill was probably even less accurate at home than he was in Virginia. Improving accuracy is surely a major point of emphasis in practice.

What about BYU’s receivers?  Here are the cumulative stats I have for them.

(Please note that these only count the passes that I listed as catches or drops. So things like the catches Mathews made out of bounds aren’t reflected here because I categorized those as misses by Hill.)

 Catches      Drops
Falslev 3 0
Hoffman 2 0
Ridley 5 1
Williams 4 1
Thompson 3 2
Apo 3 3
Mathews 2 2
Thornton 0 1
Friel 0 1
Houk 0 1
Alisa 0 2


Sample sizes are still pretty small to be drawing any hard conclusions about receivers. But so far was are seeing that sure handed receivers like Ridley and Hoffman are still sure handed. Falslev had a good game in Virginia but was not targeted against Texas. Mathews has made more than 2 catches but at least three of them have been out of bounds so his stats aren’t particularly impressive so far. Apo has been targeted quite often but the results are mixed so far.

After BYU steamrolled the Texas defense on the ground it is a good bet that future opponents are going to stack the box and dare BYU to throw. The progress Hill makes with his accuracy and the progress his receivers make with their catching will be a major factor in the future success of the BYU offense.

What do you think? Any of these numbers pop out to you?  Any other details you would like to see? Sounds off in the comments.


  1. Ryan

    September 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I think you are undercounting throwaways. I wish I could see a breakdown of bad throws where Hill and the WR were on the same page vs. bad throws where they weren’t on the same page, because I think that a significant percentage of the misses fall in the former category. But I’m not sure anyone who isn’t privy to the playbook could do an accurate job with that.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 12, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      It is possible the throwaways are under counted. There were a handful of bounce passes in front of receivers that could have been throwaways. I only counted the obvious throw-aways that were heaved well out of bounds on purpose and assumed the bounce passes weren’t intentional.

    • LouisD (@StadiumHopper)

      September 12, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      I only have seen one APO drop. I saw two badly thrown balls that were behind him and while he got a hand on the ball, those were not really catchable as fans love to think. I counted Mathews targets and he may have had one more drop than that, but it is questionable as to whether he would have come down in bounds against Va. I also don’t care for your description of the Williams drop as a drop. The ball skipped off his fingertips after he leaped in the air off the wrong foot. The receiver in that situation cannot determine in stride that he’ll be in the exact spot to come down with a pass after leaping where on the correct foot, he may get a foot of vertical and on the other less than 6 inches. This shows a lack of knowledge of the game on the author’s part and supposition, but then he may never have gone out for a pass in his life (my guess). I don’t think the 3rd down call was Williams fault. It was a foolish call by Anae and it was extremely poorly executed by Hill who had been over throwing people all day long AS YOUR STATS POINT OUT! As for rumors that Anae chewed Williams out for not catching the ball, my guess is after he viewed the replay a couple of times, he realized Williams was not at fault, Hill was.

      • Geoff Johnston

        September 12, 2013 at 5:57 pm

        Well, as I said, there is a significant subjective element to these stats. I just decided to not count the balls receivers got their hands on (like that Williams interception at UVA) as missed throws for Hill. While some were hard catches they were still in the hands of the receivers.

        As for my career as a high school football receiver — I was ok but not great. Not that that has anything AT ALL to do with my ability to see and take notes now.

        So StadiumHopper — why don’t you show off your football brilliance and post your new and improved version of what happened with those 44 incompletions? You are free to post your version of the stats in the comments if you want. We know there have been 22 catches on 66 throws so far. Feel free to let us know how you would list those 44 non-catches.

  2. Charles Chamberlin

    September 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Could you make interceptions its own category and break down the receivers drops and catches by game?

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      Sure. Here is what I have. I’ll use the format of [Name – catches, drops]:


      Williams – 2, 1 (that drop was an interception)\
      Apo – 2, 2
      Mathews – 1, 2 (he caught some out of bounds but I listed those as Hill misses)
      Houk – 0, 1
      Thornton – 0, 1
      Falslev – 3, 0
      Friel – 0, 1
      Ridley – 3, 1
      Thompson – 2, 2


      Williams – 2, 0
      Thompson – 1, 0
      Alisa – 0, 2
      Apo – 1, 1
      Mathews – 1, 0
      Hoffman – 2, 0
      Ridley – 2, 0

      In Alisa’s defense, both of his passes in the flat came in high and hot. But I counted them as drops because he got his hands on them.

  3. Michael Sting Murray

    September 12, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Nice article! It made me want to do some math of my own. It’s interesting to note that more than half (55%) of Taysom’s incomplete passes are bad throws (misses), so 45% you could say aren’t his fault (ill advised throws that get broken up or intercepted may or may not be his fault, but in general..) Taking out the throwaways, drops, breakups, that aren’t his fault brings his completion rate to 48%. Still not great, but better than 33%! Hopefully we see his practice this week pay off against Utah.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 12, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      That is an optimistic way to look at it. But we can’t forget that the QB from Miami actually completed something like 16 of his first 17 pass attempts the other night. So a vastly higher completion percentage is certainly possible. Hopefully we’ll start seeing that from BYU going forward. One could argue that BYU has already seen the best defensive backs it will see all season.

  4. Andrew Guyant

    September 12, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Interesting to see how the ball has been spread around to so many receivers. Last year I don’t remember that many receivers being targeted except maybe during the first game.

  5. BigYDad

    September 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    So with your count and calculations what then would his completion percentage be? If my calculations are correct it would be about 65 percent, but if you determine the ratio of in-completions to his present completion rate it would be around 45 percent. Still not a very good percentage.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 12, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      I am not really understanding your question. The completion percentage is 33% right now.

      I can say that with 12 drops we can safely say Hill has been on target 34 out of 64 passes so far this season (53%). That’s surely something the whole offense is working on improving.

  6. BigYDad

    September 12, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    What I am saying is that there is no way you can assume that all those deflection, throw-a- ways and drop passes would have been caught. What I am trying to say is that you have to account for his present completion percentage and adjust accordingly.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 12, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      I’m still a little confused about what you are angling for. I just listed the stats as I observed them. Not a ton of assumptions in that.

  7. chrisbyu

    September 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    What would be interesting, but hard to quantify, would be the defenses these balls were thrown into. For example, one reason the DC of Texas was let go was that his game plan revolved around stopping the pass and he refused to change. If UT was in a pass defense, its fair to say that it would be more difficult to pass against. Conversely, if there were 7-8 in the box and the outside were primarily man-man, teams should have more success.

    I think by now its obvious that the weather and conditions had some affect on the passing game in week 1. As abysmal as our passing was, UVA was worse (at least statistically).

    I think it’s too early to find out exactly where Hill is as a passer. We should see more vs. Utah next game, but with the anomalies from the first two weeks its hard to judge. I actually think he will have a great throwing game vs. Utah, weather permitting. We still have an outstanding receiving unit and after Texas teams will gear up to stop the run and those guys will be running like wild gazelles in the secondary.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 12, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      i agree. Some of the drops I observed were dropped because of extremely tight coverage. And it is definitely too early to come to any hard conclusions about Hill, the receivers, or the passing scheme in general.

  8. Devin Hansen

    September 12, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I love this kind of article, because it puts a lot of things in context. The numbers indicate that Taysom has been less than stellar with his accuracy, but 12 dropped passes in two games can’t be ignored either. That was one of the first things Ben Cahoon addressed when he was brought in to coach the WR’s, who were having this same kind of problem with drops a couple of years ago.

    I like coach Holliday, and I hope he’s cracking down on his receivers and demanding a higher level of accountability from that group for their performance, just as I hope Coaches Anae and Beck are demanding better accuracy from Taysom. Accountability is a huge factor for this team. The O-line has been called on it, as was the defense when Bronco took it back over.

    Interestingly, I work with a walk-on who was with the team through the off-season, and he tells me without hesitation that Taysom has under-performed in games compared to how his passing was in camp and practice. We heard rumors that his accuracy was in question, from the media in fall camp, but I think he’s got more in his arm than what he’s shown so far. I’m not letting him off the hook for bad passing, but I’m giving him a little leeway for being young and having some jitters in his 3rd and 4th collegiate start. It’s crystal clear that Taysom and everybody down in Provo knows that he’s got to improve, and I expect that will be a major point of emphasis in preparation for Utah.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 12, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      The report that Hill has been more accurate in practice is encouraging. Thanks for that info.

  9. Jared

    September 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Thompson had a drop in the 4th against UVa on the last drive on 3rd and 10. He then had a drop on the second drive of the 1st against Texas.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 12, 2013 at 9:37 pm

      You may be right. For some reason I had his 4th quarter drop at UVA crossed out. I was thinking a penalty must have negated the play but it could very well be a transcription error.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 12, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      Yep I found the error in my notes. I went back and added a drop for Thompson and subtracted a miss for Hill in the stats above. Good catch.

  10. Gorum the Old

    September 13, 2013 at 8:04 am

    My 3 big Take aways:

    1) Impressive Pass blocking by O line and solid route running by receivers. Only 3 throw aways in 2 games means he has time and targets.

    2) It will be great to have a healthy Hoffman back. Last year he had more catches than all of the other receivers combined. There is a very good reason for that.

    3) I’m starting to miss coach Calhoon. The amount of drops has been ridiculous. I wouldn’t be surprised is this years offense already has as many or more drops through two games last years did through out the entire season.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 13, 2013 at 10:16 am

      On the drops thing — 10 in the first game was terrible, But 3 in the second game was vastly better. I think the weather was a big factor in Virginia on those drops. Plus Hill targeted several new, green guys in week one and that is a lower percentage play. So I am optimistic that the drops will continue to stay quite low going forward.

  11. Bryce Barrand

    September 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Hill needs to target Hoffman a lot more! 2 passes against Texas wasn’t enough. I know the run game was great, but still, if we are going to pass it to someone, it should be our stand-out receiver.

  12. Sanpete

    September 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Useful analysis, seeming to show Hill’s accuracy still needs work despite the dropped balls and so on, though he has implied that routes being disrupted or run wrong have also contributed.

    The math in a couple spots seems off a little. 13/66 = 19.7%, 23/66 = 34.85%.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 13, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Good catch. I just fixed that error. (When I adjusted the numbers to reflect one more drop and one less miss yesterday I ended up dividing by 64 instead of 66).

  13. Alexander Perkins (@SuperPerks)

    September 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Great post Geoff! I’m really glad you took the time to do this. No question Taysom has to be more accurate, especially once defenses start loading the box to stop the run, but the drops are super concerning.
    The amount of drops Apo has is concerning as well. Other than size and athleticism, I’m not sure I’ve seen anything that shows he can be a capable receiver for anything other than a few targets a night. Three years in to his career and it doesn’t feel like he’s progressed at all. I would love to see Falslev and Ridley have more balls thrown their way.
    A lot of short crossing routes should open up as the defense brings more players to the line to stuff the run.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 13, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      I’d probably be a lot more concerned about drops if they didn’t decrease so significantly in week two. I suspect a non-raining game will help even more on that front.

  14. Chrs Fuller

    September 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    What is missing from your evaluation is YAC — yards after catch. This is an important, even critical, factor in assessing a QB’s accuracy and ability as a passer. Few if any of Hill’s passes that are actually caught end with the receiver adding yards after the catch. This could mean that the defense is awfully good, but it also could, and usually does, mean that the ball was thrown in a place that the receiver had to adjust his route to catch the ball, often jumping back, falling or diving in order to catch a ball that is not thrown on target. Some patterns are “sit down” patterns where the receiver finds a “whole” in tehe zone, “sits” there and waits for the pass, and will get immediately tackled. But most of the patterns run and thrown to this year are slants, and flares, and Hoffman’s streaks up the sideline. There have been no YAC. So, this means that Hill, even when completing a pass, is not putting the ball in the right placem, where ther receiver can make the catch and then add yards after the catch because he caught the ball in stride. Slant passes to 6’6″ Mitch Mathews are thrown at his back hip (where defenders can easily reach around and knock it wdown), instead of leading him at head height where a 5’9″ DB can’t get to it and Mathews can catch in stride, maybe break a tackle and significant YAC. Hoffman has to make circus catches on his deep sideline balls because the ball is not thrown to him in stride where he can catch and run. Ridley has only caught one ball thrown to him in the right spot — the others required him to contortion his body back against his motion to make an acrobatic catch. Hill can’t even through the short flare to Williams in the right spot to let him catch and run. When he tthrows it accurately it is often too late — he waits until the receiver is open before he throws, allowing the DB to brak on the ball and knock it down or hit the receiver, causing several of what you ahve called “drops.” Granted, receivers should hang on to those, but it is not easy when the DB arrives the same time as the ball because teh ball was thrown late. What all this means is that raw and amazing athletic ability like THill has does not gaurantee the kid can be a D-I passer. That ability may mean he does not have to be much of a passer, if he complete 10 or 15 balls a game to keep the LB and safeties honest, and if the OL can keep up the blocking they did against UT, then teh BYU offense can, like the old Oklahoma wishbone offenses, rack up chunks of yardage without reliance on the forward pass. Bjut even then, Hill can’t make this offense run without being more accurate when he does or has to throw. It will catch up to him and his team if he does not make significant progress and do it fast.

    • Geoff Johnston

      September 15, 2013 at 10:06 am

      I’ll plan to add YAC to the things I track going forward.

  15. Lochsloy

    September 18, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I feel that the right reads are being made but the timing is just not quite there yet on many plays. He seems to be going at a frantic pace still especially in game 1. He will settle in as the weeks go on.

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