PROVO — No duo in BYU football history has been more prolific in terms of rushing yardage in a single season than quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams.
And they've recorded nearly identical rushing statistics this year.
Hill has run 215 times for 1,211 yards while Williams has had 205 carries for 1,202 yards for a total of 2,413 yards — establishing a new single-season rushing record at BYU for a pair of rushers.
It’s also the first time in BYU history two players have rushed for 1,000 in the same season.
The 2013 rushing mark for Hill and Williams topped the previous record of 2,043 combined rushing yards by quarterback Brandon Doman and running back Luke Staley in 2001.
Hill and Williams will lead the BYU offense when the Cougars meet Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 27 (7:30 p.m. MST, ESPN) at AT&T Park.
Before the season started, Hill didn't think much about the possibility of the new offensive scheme, installed by offensive coordinator Robert Anae, producing two 1,000-yard rushers.
"I’m a little surprised that I rushed for as many yards as I did. Not surprised with the way Jamaal rushed," Hill said. "Looking back at it, with the offensive scheme, and the numbers that we put up, it makes sense to have it spread out the way that it was. It’s been a really good season. I’m happy with the things that we as an offensive unit have accomplished. We look to build off that in this bowl game.”
Perhaps the best news for the Cougars is that Hill and Williams, who combined to score 16 rushing touchdowns this season, are both sophomores.
Hill is already the most prolific rushing quarterback in school history (1,547 career yards). He became the first BYU player — and the 23rd in NCAA history — to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 in a season. Hill has thrown for 2,645 yards.
Williams (1,977), meanwhile, needs a little less than 1,000 yards to surpass Jamal Willis for No. 3 on BYU’s career list.
When it comes to single-season rushing, Hill and Williams currently rank No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, in BYU history — with one more game remaining. The all-time single-season Cougar rushing leader is Staley, who gained 1,582 yards in 2001.
Williams is coming off a career-high 219 yards in a 28-23 victory over Nevada in the regular-season finale on Nov. 30. That performance could propel him going into the bowl game.
“It helped me a lot. It helped me get back to my old ways. It was like a little reality check for me," Williams said. "I need to go back to those ways of running, just running hard and putting my body out there for the sake of the team and not worrying about getting hurt. Just going out there and playing relentless. That’s what I want to do.”
In the first half against Nevada, Williams eclipsed the single-season 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career on a 30-yard run. That gave BYU two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time in school history.
“I’m happy I got to it and I’m grateful to my line for helping me get over 1,000 yards, too,” Williams said of his accomplishment. “This is a great milestone for me. My next milestone is to get to 1,500 (yards), and just keep building on those. … The whole team goal is to get to the BCS and keep winning as a team — top 25 and everything. Team goals come before my goals. But at the end of the day, I’m happy I got over 1,000 yards.”
In that win over the Wolf Pack, Williams ran just three times in the first half as the Cougars trailed at halftime, 7-0.
But on BYU’s opening possession of the second half, Williams got BYU on the scoreboard with a 66-yard touchdown run. He took a handoff on second-and-1 and burst through a hole, sprinting into the end zone untouched.
That TD sparked not only the offense, but the defense, too.
“That set the tone for us in the second half,” said senior defensive back Daniel Sorensen. “It gave us the energy and momentum that we needed. We needed a big play somewhere, on offense or defense. To get it so quick and so early, that might have given us that push. That was big.”
Senior wide receiver JD Falslev is happy to see Williams’ success.
“He’s a special player to watch. He doesn’t need much of a hole to run through,” he said. “He’s an unbelievable running back. I’m excited for his future. He definitely sparked us and that helped us getting the wheels rolling in the second half (against Nevada).”
Later in that game, Hill had a 35-yard touchdown run that all but sealed the victory.
Giving opportunities for Hill and Williams to run was all part of the Cougars’ second-half game plan against Nevada.
“Right at the end of the first half, we knew that was the direction we would have to go,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “The combination of running the football with Jamaal and Taysom and throwing the quick game, and moving the chains that way, that was the difference. That approach helped us. … Taysom especially, and Jamaal running the ball physically, both of those two, I thought, was the difference in the game.”
No doubt, BYU will rely heavily on Williams and Hill against Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl.
Jeff, sending this back so you can add some quotes from Thursday's availability. Thanks.