Loyal Cougars

The Taysom Hill Effect

Four weeks ago, BYU was in a situation about which every fan had dreamed since football’s independence began in July of 2010: an undefeated start, a national ranking, a Heisman contender leading the helm at quarterback, the national relevance that has escaped the program in years past. The return of BYU to prominence was a national story; Jim Rome interviewed Taysom Hill and Bronco Mendenhall a number of times. BYU was voted to be most deserving of an invite to the Big 12 on ESPN’s Sports Nation.

Overall, the atmosphere was different; Bronco finally appeared more relaxed with the media. He was eager to play (and win) big games. The confidence which surrounded the program was at an all-time high and it showed. There were a number of times that Bronco publicly called out rival Utah for putting the Holy War on hold.

All was well.

Until October 3.

Coming into the game against Utah State, BYU was a 21-point favorite. The Cougars had just knocked off a much improved ACC foe in Virginia to start the season 4-0 and had a bye week coming into the big rivalry game.

Since that time, BYU has lost its star, Taysom Hill, and four straight games. Fans have begun to call for Bronco to either step down himself, or for Tom Holmoe to intervene and fire the coach. The season has become a tale of two halves thus far: with Taysom, and post-Taysom.

So how much of an impact did Taysom REALLY have on BYU’s success?

Through the first four games, BYU’s offense averaged: 37.5 points per game, 449 total yards, 219 yards passing with a 66.1% completion percentage, and 230 yards rushing. This is all while possessing the ball for an average of 28:21. The one game that really skewed this last stat was against Virginia where BYU only held the ball for 18:40, the highest time of possession to that point was 35:06 against Houston.

Since then, the offense has averaged: 27.3 points per game, 423 total yards, 273 yards passing with a 57.3% completion percentage, and 150 yards rushing. BYU’s time of possession has averaged 25:07. Since losing Taysom, the most BYU has possessed the ball was 28:07 against UCF and the worst was 21:56 against Utah State.

It’s obvious that losing Taysom has hurt the team offensively, but not as badly as one would think. Christian Stewart has done a decent job filling in and BYU has been much more prolific throwing the ball, but the rushing game has been greatly affected by the loss of Taysom (not to mention the time missed by Jamaal Williams).

Now, let’s look at the difference between the first four and last four games on defense.

Through the first four games, BYU’s defense gave up an average of 18.75 points, 364 total yards, 276 passing yards, and an average of 89 rushing yards per game. This came while the opposing offenses possessed the ball for an average of 31:39.

Let’s also compare each opponent’s offensive performance to its season averages:

Connecticut: Scoring Ranking: 127th for an average of 14.0 ppg; BYU gave up 10 points. Passing Ranking: 96th for an average of 177.7 ypg; BYU gave up 284 yards (UCONN also lost their starting QB against BYU). Rushing Ranking: 124th for an average of 76.7 ypg, BYU held them to 71 yards.

Texas: Scoring Ranking: 110th for an average of 20.8 ppg; BYU gave up 7 points. Passing Ranking: 87th for an average of 210.6 ypg; BYU gave up 176 yards. Rushing Ranking: 97th for an average of 137.6 ypg; BYU held them to 82 yards.

Houston: Scoring Ranking: 80th for an average of 28.1 ppg; BYU gave up 25 points. Passing Ranking: 79th for an average of 222.3 ypg; BYU gave up 315 yards. Rushing Ranking: 71st for 158.7 ypg; BYU only gave up 9 yards on the ground.

Virginia: Scoring Ranking: 75th for an average of 28.8 ppg; BYU gave up 33 points. Passing Ranking: 61st for an average of 241.6 ypg; BYU gave up 327 yards. Rushing Ranking: 59th for an average of 170.1 ypg; BYU gave up 192 yards.

In the four losses, the BYU defense has given up an average of 40.75 points, 474 total yards, 336 passing yards, and 138 rushing yards. This came while BYU’s defense was on the field for an average of 34:53.

Here’s what the defensive performance looked like against each teams season averages:

Utah State: Scoring Ranking: 88th for an average of 26.6 ppg; BYU gave up 35 points. Passing Ranking: 64th for an average of 239.6 ypg; BYU gave up 321 yards. Rushing Ranking: 96th for 138.4 ypg; BYU held them just under their average with only 136 yards.

UCF: Scoring Ranking: 94th for an average of 25.3 ppg; BYU gave up 31 points. Passing Ranking: 83rd for an average of 216.4 ypg; BYU gave up 326 yards. Rushing Ranking: 119th for 99.6 ypg; BYU held them to just 63 yards on the ground.

Nevada: Scoring Ranking: 68th for an average of 29.9 ppg; BYU gave up 42 poitns. Passing Ranking: 71st for an average of 226.8 ypg; BYU gave up 285 yards. Rushing Ranking: 47th for an average of 187.4 ypg; BYU gave up 126 yards.

Boise State: Scoring Ranking: 35th for an average of 34.9 ppg; BYU gave up 55 points. Passing Ranking: 17th for 305.9 ypg; BYU gave up 410 yards. Rushing Ranking: 41st for 198.1 ypg; BYU gave up 227 yards.

BYU’s defense has continued to play well against the run, holding 6 out of 8 teams under their season average with the exceptions being Virginia and Boise State. But, 4 of the 8 quarterbacks BYU has faced have had season highs in passing yardage while facing BYU’s defense.

Most teams have realized that BYU’s weakness is defending the pass, but there has also been a noticeable difference in the attitude with which BYU’s defense has played with since losing Taysom. The fire and intensity showed during the four-game winning streak has disappeared during the current four-game losing streak.

There definitely seems to be a lack of leadership on the field since Taysom went down with injury. The stats have showed that there were issues on the defensive side of the ball (especially through the air) even before the injury. But those issues have only gotten worse as the season has progressed.

If BYU wants to get back in the win column in its remaining games, these issues will need to be addressed each week moving forward.

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