PROVO — One minute, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill was running around the field, hurdling opponents, completing passes, making plays, looking almost invincible.
Then, suddenly, he wasn’t.
Hill was tackled awkwardly late in the first half in a 35-20 loss to Utah State last Friday. Hill suffered a fractured left leg, and underwent a two-hour surgery Saturday.
“One plate, eight screws,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said about the surgery. “Every major ligament shredded. It’s significant. (Doctors) knew it was bad. When they got in there, it was worse.”
Hill is expected to be out four to six months, which means he could be back for spring drills in March.
“Taysom’s a very resilient person,” said Christian Stewart, who is now the Cougars’ starting quarterback. “I know that he’ll be back in no time.”
Hill is the Cougars’ leading rusher, having carried the ball 86 times for 463 yards and eight touchdowns. He completed 88 of 132 passes for 975 yards and seven TDs this season.
Now the BYU offense is in the hands of Stewart, a senior from Orem. But Hill will still play an important role.
“He’ll be there coaching me, being on the sideline, being that support that I could use,” Stewart said, adding that he missed not having Hill on the sideline last Friday. Stewart completed 10 of 29 passes for 172 yards and three interceptions against the Aggies.
The two quarterbacks are close friends, and Stewart visited his fallen teammate Sunday.
During fall camp, Stewart took a lot of reps. At the time, Mendenhall explained it was to prepare for a situation like this.
In August, Stewart was asked about the similarities and differences between himself and Hill.
“I’ve actually learned a lot from Taysom. Watching his film and watching him getting mental reps have helped on my run reads because this offense is a new offense for me,” Stewart said. “I’m used to a straight drop-back or pro-style, like I did down at Snow College. Watching Taysom has really helped me. He would rather make plays with his feet. He can and he does. And he’s really good at it.
"If I get into a game situation, I don’t know how many times I will be running the ball. I don’t know what the coaches will be calling. But I would rather sit in the pocket, make my reads, trust the O-line, and make plays from the pocket.”
Stewart’s teammates say they have confidence in him and are rallying around him.
“He’s a great quarterback. I’ve thrown with him for two or three years so I know exactly right where he’s going to put the ball,” said wide receiver Mitch Mathews. “He’s really good at throwing the ball. There will be no steps back in our passing game. We’re excited about that. … He has all the tools necessary to win the rest of the games we play. He’s a smart guy, he’s a good leader, and we love him and we trust him. … We’ll do everything we can for him.”
Meanwhile, Stewart is happy to be surrounded by talented teammates.
“You’ve got all these weapons. Everybody’s out there,” he said. “Now I just need to perform and I know they’re going to do their jobs. We’re going to do some exciting things.”
Mendenhall was asked about the dependence on Hill there had been this season.
“There was a level of confidence, I wouldn’t say dependence,” Mendenhall said. “There was the confidence that we’d never be out of a game. What happens now is that the team simply has to execute at a higher level. Taysom’s gone. One player doesn’t make a team, even though Taysom’s a fantastic player. Execution of all positions within their assignment and technique has to improve, and improve right now.”
Mendenhall’s assessment of Stewart’s performance off the bench Friday?
“He tries really hard, which is exactly what we knew he would,” Mendenhall said. “He knows the offense well and he looked confident. Like many quarterbacks in that situation, he pressed. He tried to do a little bit too much. But I actually took it as a positive thing because he was aggressive.”
Mendenhall said the best way for Stewart to settle into his new role is “practice reps and experience.”
McCoy Hill, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound freshman, is listed as Stewart’s backup on the depth chart.
Stewart is eager to show what he can do.
After Friday’s loss, Stewart said he lay awake in bed until 3 a.m., “wanting to be back on the field. There’s nothing like that adrenalin rush. I felt like I was starting to get into the groove of things. I’m excited about getting back on the field to play.”
BYU (4-1) at Central Florida (2-2)
Bright House Networks Stadium
Thursday, 5:30 p.m. MDT
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM