Last week Taysom Hill did not have to throw the ball a lot. But he did find Ross Apo for a touchdown. What do you expect Apo will do for an encore?
Carl: For Apo, this is his time to make an indelible impression on the rest of this season. Either he folds and goes away very quietly, or he fights through his productivity issues and becomes a dependable receiver. This game should tell us what we need to know. It’s fair to say he doesn’t possess the leadership quality, and he’s not the number 1 receiver he may have felt he was. Yet, he can be every bit as productive as Cody Hoffman if wants to. Personally, I think Apo knows Riley Nelson won’t pass to him, but with Taysom Hill in, it could be different. I really don’t think Hill cares who he throws to as long as you’re open. If Hill starts Friday, Apo could have a big night.
Matt: The struggle with Ross Apo is that he was Jake Heaps’ guy. I feel as though Riley Nelson wanted to be the anti-Heaps so he went to Hoffman until the end of the season when Apo got more involved. But Hoffman is and will always be Nelson’s safety blanket. He’s reliable. So Apo has been forgotten. Last week Hoffman was blanketed by the Warriors’ #1 all night and he was good against Cody. But Apo got going. I was impressed that even after he got called for pushing off on that second TD grab of his, Doman called the same play as a toss to the corner that just sailed out. I think that as Hill gets more comfortable with the passing and Doman and Mendenhall become more confident in Hill, Apo will play a big role. Hill has a big-time arm and Apo will need to stretch the field to make room for the rest of the underneath passing game. If Hill is the man going forward, Apo will play a HUGE role.
Will Brandon Doman and Bronco Mendenhall trust Hill enough this week to throw the ball early in the game to loosen up the rush defense of the Aggies?
Carl: Based on last week’s performance, I think they will. Hill did enough with his arm to warrant some level of trust. They’ll need him to be accurate early; it could be a monster difference maker. If any of you were following @ai_sportsblog on Twitter during the Hawaii game, you should be fully aware that the two running back look with Hill at shotgun proved to be highly effective. Doman should have picked up on that if we did. Go with it my young padawan; it will continue to be effective. 60/40 running/throwing balance will be essential against a stingy Utah State defense. They’re too good up front.
Matt: I think Doman is ready to trust now; Bronco, not so much. I think Hill will start and play this week against Utah State and Doman will use the short swing passes and quick tight end dumps as an extension of a potentially lethal running game to get Hill comfortable early. As it progresses, Hill will progress and start taking some shots at the secondary. I hope by game’s end, Hill will have Doman’s full confidence, but I don’t know that Bronco can give his until Riley is permanently shelved.
BYU played 17 games without a 100 yard rusher and then netted two last week with Hill and Jamaal Williams. Will this week give Cougar fans another 100 yard rusher and will it be Hill or Williams?
Carl: Per the previous question, if Taysom gets going throwing the ball, Williams will have another banner day; against a more formidable defense. That said, if anyone is getting to the century mark, its Williams. Only if the game is close or BYU is ahead will we see the century mark. My official prediction is no 100-yard rusher.
Matt: If the coaches are to fully trust Hill, they have to stop letting him run so much. He showed incredible poise last week, pulling up to throw the ball when it would have been easier to just tuck and run. If he stands tall and throws the ball, there should only be runs for the back on Friday night and I think Williams is capable of yet another 100-yard rushing night.
Recent blog posts suggested that Riley Nelson was going to hang up his cleats for good suggesting that Taysom Hill would be the de facto starter going forward. With the forearm injury to Michael Alisa last week, have we witnessed the dawning of the Hill/Williams young gun offense or will we see a return to action of the incumbents?
Carl: Williams is here to stay, health permitting. Hill is still up in the air with Nelson seemingly getting healthier by the day. Nelson may come back and play this season, but Hill showed us there’s plenty to be optimistic about going forward for Cougar fans. The Hill/Williams show for at least 2013 and 2014 will be an entertaining nucleus.
Matt: I don’t think we see Alisa again this season. Williams is very good and earning his role day after day. The optimist in me hopes Riley is truly done (not for injury sake or anything, I just want his divisive days done at BYU.) The pessimist says we haven’t seen the last of him; that he still has time this season to ruin another game for the Cougars. I know playing a true freshman is going to be tough sailing but we’re going to the Poinsettia Bowl if we go at all; why not let the guy who is clearly the future just do it now?
How do you feel, as a BYU fan, going in to this Friday’s contest?
Carl: I’m very nervous as a Cougar fan. Yes 47-0 cures ills, but only temporarily. I didn’t see enough out of the passing game last week to feel confident and balanced offensively. I was however, encouraged at the change-ups in the offensive line seemed to have made an immediate impact. We’ll truly see how BYU stacks up going in to the two games that follow Utah State. The defense will be challenged by the most balanced team they’ve seen this season. Benchmarks all around Friday.
Matt: The only ill I feel was cured was the negativity from everywhere around this team. I think the team knows that while great, it was still a hapless Hawaii team. Utah State makes me nervous and I never thought I’d say that as a Cougar fan. Gary Anderson has that team playing at such a high level right now and they are riding a wave of confidence. Chukie Keeton is the most dynamic quarterback this defense will have faced this season and Kerwynn Williams is a dual-threat back. The Cougar defense will need to stay disciplined to keep the offense close. I wish I weren’t, but I am nervous.
Carl: Obviously, I’m nervous. The beat down we laid on Hawaii was not nearly good enough to rightfully determine if BYU has cured their funk. Cougar fans saw glimpses on Friday night, but mainly because it was against Hawaii Junior College. But I’m Ben Bernanke for Cougar Nation. I don’t believe this game is as close the media think. I think ‘In Taysom We Trust’ Hill will drive the nail in the coffin as to who should be BYU’s starting quarterback. I look for him to keep Utah State’s defense honest by a good mix of run pass. 250+ and 3 TD’s in the air should be expected. The defense will maintain its high level, but possibly giving up an early score, as Utah State has done so frequently this season. It’s put up or shut up time for the Cougars. There’s still plenty in the tank worth playing for, and we’ll see it Friday.
BYU- 34 USU- 16
Matt: The Cougars aren’t the team we saw last Friday night but they also aren’t the team we saw against Utah and Boise State. They are a team that is capable of being either version though based on mental preparation. Reports are still conflicting on whether Nelson or Hill starts. I don’t expect the same run production but I do expect more passing game this week while still leaning heavily towards the run. Expect Hill to temper his running and while he will be successful, Williams won’t be as successful as we saw last week. BYU has a better shot to win this game if they keep the ball away from the Aggie offense and while that sounds obvious, it will be a matter of ball protection. BYU needs this more. They lose this and they could stare a long 4 game losing stretch. Winning gives them the confidence to play against the gauntlet that is Oregon State, Notre Dame, and Georgia Tech. Utah State is only playing for pride this week as this win or loss won’t affect them at the end of the season. BYU should win, but it will be close. BYU 27 USU 21.