If it seems like Taysom Hill has been around forever, you would not be mistaken. Saturday night’s Cactus Kickoff Classic was the fifth BYU season opener that the quarterback took a snap in and his fourth straight start in the first game of the year for the Cougars.
By all accounts however, this opener was probably the sweetest of them all for the signal-caller who graduated high school back in 2009. Hill suffered season-ending injuries in 2012, 2014 and last year but triumphantly returned to the field against Arizona to deliver a rousing 18-16 victory in the final two minutes that also doubled as head coach Kalani Sitake’s first win with the Cougars.
Hill finished the evening 21-of-29 for 202 yards and a touchdown through the air, leading his team on the game-winning drive with just 1:38 left on the clock. The quarterback built like a tank also rushed for 37 yards and provided plenty of veteran leadership on the sidelines next to first time college coordinator (and former BYU legend) Ty Detmer.
The Cougars defense also came to play, sacking Wildcats quarterback Anu Solomon four times and picking him off twice. They are active in the trenches against a young offensive line and linebacker Butch Pau’u seemed to be all over the field on his way to an eight tackle (2.5 for a loss) and one sack night.
There was a bit of mystery as to whether Solomon would start behind center for Arizona or if head coach Rich Rodriguez would opt to go with redshirt sophomore Brandon Dawkins instead. It was Solomon’s show all game long and he extended a few plays with his legs but was otherwise middle of the road until the final quarter. That’s when the team came roaring back, with the quarterback keying a crazy comeback that gave the Wildcats the lead after a 49 yard run by tailback Nick Wilson.
That late game situation put the pressure on a first year head coach in Sitake, who took over at his alma mater from now Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall. BYU had to sweat things out at the end a bit but thankfully they had Hill behind center to help calmly march the Cougars down the field.
Sitake remarkably tapped freshman Jake Oldroyd — not the team’s other kicker, Rhett Almond — for his first ever college kick to be the eventual 33 yard game-winner.
It was a extraordinary way to win your first game but it was likely just as memorable for the team’s veteran quarterback.