PROVO, Utah (AP) — There were hopes for an undefeated season, a major bowl bid and possibly even a Heisman Trophy.
That all came crashing down Friday night for No. 18 Brigham Young. Not only did the Cougars (4-1) lose for the first time, they also lost Taysom Hill for the rest of the year.
Hill, who was building a strong case for Heisman consideration with five rushing and five passing touchdowns in BYU’s first four games, broke his left leg late in the first half. Without him, the Cougars never recovered from a 14-point halftime deficit and were stunned 35-20 by in-state rival Utah State on a night when former star Jim McMahon had his No. 9 jersey retired.
Hill was scrambling right when Utah State safety Brian Suite pulled him down, landing awkwardly on Hill’s lower left leg. The junior quarterback was carted to the locker room and never returned. He’s scheduled for surgery Saturday and will be out three to four months.
“It was really difficult to watch Taysom go down,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “Our execution will now have to be better from top to bottom because of Taysom’s ability to create. There just isn’t another Taysom Hill out there anywhere.”
Though he was celebrating a big victory, Utah State coach Matt Wells felt for the BYU star.
“That kid is a tremendous competitor. I hate that for him,” Wells said.
Backup quarterback Darell Garretson threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Aggies.
Garretson, a sophomore who took over for injured Chuckie Keeton in the second half of a Week 3 win over Wake Forest, also ran for a score. He completed 14 of 17 passes for 257 yards and three TDs in the first half, propelling Utah State to a 28-14 lead.
“He remained calm and composed for us,” Wells said.
Hunter Sharp had five catches for 173 yards and a touchdown for the Aggies (3-2), who were 20-point underdogs. Devonte Robinson added six catches for 98 yards and two TDs.
Sophomore linebacker Nick Vigil, who played on both sides of the ball for the first time in his career, carried 16 times for 57 yards and one TD. Vigil also led Utah State with nine tackles.
The Aggies racked up 457 total yards to BYU’s 425. Utah State also had nearly a 16-minute advantage in time of possession. The Aggies forced BYU into four turnovers.
“They executed more cleanly from beginning to end … and there were some fast guys who ran right past us a few times,” Mendenhall said.
For BYU, Jamaal Williams rushed for 99 yards. Mitch Matthews had eight catches for 117 yards and one TD. Jordan Leslie caught four passes for 135 yards.
Hill began the game in familiar style when he went deep down the right side to Leslie for 53 yards on the first play. Four plays later, Hill scrambled left from the 11-yard line and hurdled a defender at the goal line to put the Cougars up 7-0 only 1:16 into the game.
After fumbling the ball away on its first drive, Utah State came back to tie it at 7 on its next possession. Garretson capped the 10-play, 85-yard drive by connecting with Robinson over the middle on a third down from the 7-yard line.
The Cougars regained the lead at 14-7 when Hill lofted a pass to Matthews in the end zone from 25 yards out.
Utah State responded with another long march, tying the score 14-all when Garretson rolled left and dove across the goal line for a 5-yard TD run.
BYU fumbled on the next play, with the Aggies recovering on the 22-yard line. One play later, Garretson found Robinson wide open in the end zone to put Utah State up 21-14.
“I was really happy for the offense to flip it around and capitalize on that. We had been struggling a little bit with that in the past,” Wells said.
Minutes later, Garretson stunned the home crowd when he found Sharp streaking all alone deep down the left side for a 72-yard TD pass right before the break.
“That was a huge momentum shift in the game,” Mendenhall said.
Garretson went back to work downfield in the third quarter. He again found Sharp behind BYU’s defenders for 56 yards, setting up a 1-yard TD run by Vigil.
“Offensively, I think that’s what we’ve been missing is the big, explosive plays to stretch the defense. We were able to get three or four tonight that really hit for big yards,” Vigil said.
All BYU could muster after halftime were two field goals by Trevor Sampson. Reserve quarterback Christian Stewart, taking over for Hill, threw three second-half interceptions.
With only two other freshman quarterbacks on the roster, the senior transfer will be BYU’s starter from this point on, Mendenhall said.
“It’s a terrible thing that Taysom went down and no one wanted to see that, but if there’s a guy that’s ready to step up to the challenge it’s me,” Stewart said. “That’s why I came here. I honestly believe my team has my back and I have their back and we’re still going to do some special things this season.”
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