Hill leads BYU over UConn, spoiling Diaco’s debut
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — BYU quarterback Taysom Hill says he had a serious case of the butterflies before his season opener at UConn.
The Cougars began last year with a trip to the East Coast and a loss to Virginia, and this year they were traveling without several key players who were under suspension.
“Most of the time, I don’t get that nervous before games,” Hill said. “Looking at it, it was just because we had a lot of unknowns.”
There was no need to worry.
The junior threw three touchdown passes and ran for two scores to help BYU beat UConn 35-10 on Friday night.
Hill completed 28 of 36 passes to nine receivers without an interception. He went 17 of 20 to lead the Cougars to a 28-7 halftime advantage, and was BYU’s leading rusher with 97 yards on 12 carries.
“He was resilient and methodical and 28 points in the first half was ideal and that was something I was hoping to see,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
The Cougars put up 513 yards of offense, 329 of that before intermission.
UConn’s Bob Diaco played 50 Huskies in his head coaching debut.
Sophomore Casey Cochran and senior Chandler Whitmer split quarterback duties and threw for a combined 284 yards. Cochran was 17 of 31 for 171 yards. He also threw an interception on the Huskies’ second drive deep in BYU territory. Whitmer was 8 of 17 for 113 yards.
“That’s the point you’re at right now,” Diaco said. “For the players to get better, they have to play in games.”
BYU played without a handful of regulars. Tailback Jamaal Williams and wide receiver Devon Blackmon announced their own suspensions for school honor code violations. Defensive tackle Marques Johnson and starting cornerbacks Jordan Johnson and Robertson Daniel also were suspended for unspecified violations of team rules. Receiver Nick Kurtz missed the game because of a stress fracture in his foot.
Mendenhall says he expects all of the suspended players back next week against Texas.
BYU got off to a quick start.
Hill, who last year ran for more than 1,300 yards and passed for just under 3,000, capped the Cougars’ opening 15-play, 75-yard drive with a 7-yard run. He then found Mitch Mathews wide open over the middle from 26 yards out, after tailback Max DeLorenzo fumbled on the Huskies’ first offensive play.
Hill danced away from pressure late in the first half and found Terenn Houk open to his left for a 35-yard touchdown catch-and-run that made it 28-7 at the half.
The quarterback capped the game with a 26-yard touchdown run to complete a 90-yard, fourth-quarter drive that sent the fans to the exits.
“This is an excellent offensive system,” Mendenhall said. “I think you can see the potential, and that’s what’s exciting to me.”
Penalties slowed the Cougars a bit. They committed 15 of them for 150 yards. UConn was flagged eight times for 90 yards.
A fumble by BYU’s Mathews at midfield led to UConn’s only touchdown. Whitmer led the Huskies on a six-play drive that ended with freshman Josh Merriner scoring from a yard out in the second quarter.
Bobby Puyol made a 35-yard field goal for UConn in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies put together an 11-play drive to start the second half, but failed after faking a 40-yard field goal.
UConn’s top receiver, Geremy Davis, finished with seven catches for 96 yards. He spent some time in the fourth quarter in the locker room, but returned before the end of the game.