clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Poinsettia Bowl: Wyoming's Brian Hill poses challenge for BYU's defense

PROVO — BYU’s defense faces a big test in terms of stopping the run in its final game of the season.

The Cougars are going up against one of the nation’s top running backs when they play Wyoming in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 21 (7 p.m., MST, ESPN).

Junior Brian Hill ranks No. 4 nationally in total rushing yards (1,767), No. 6 in yards per game (135.9) and No. 4 in rushing touchdowns (21).

BYU, on the other hand, ranks No. 8 the country in rushing defense, yielding only 108.4 yards per contest.

On Oct. 22, in a 42-34 victory at Nevada, Hill ran for a career-high 289 yards and three touchdowns. It was the second-most rushing yards in a game in Cowboy history.

Even more impressive, Hill did it while battling the flu.

“He's an unselfish player. He's a tremendous running back,” said Wyoming coach Craig Bohl. “He's a guy that I would describe as a slasher. I don't know how much you would say he is, but I know this, every time he gets in the open field, very few people run him down.

"He's a relentless runner and has a big, big impact," Bohl continued. "Last year he gained 1,600 yards, but we've been more explosive with him this year. I think we've been more diversified on offense, which has allowed him to get some bigger plays. … We’re going to need him to play well if we’re going to have an opportunity to beat BYU.”

“They have a really good running back and their O-line doesn’t get enough credit,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. “They’re physical. They can run power at you and they can spread you out.”

Defensive end Sae Tautu is optimistic the Cougars can step up to the challenge Hill poses.

“We respect him and his stats, but we’re confident we can stop them,” Tautu said. “We’re going to go out and play as we have all season, just fly to the ball. The beauty of our defense right now is there are so many playmakers on the field that it’s hard for one guy to beat our defense. I respect their team but I’m confident in what we’re going to do.”

Wyoming is also a capable passing team. Sophomore quarterback Josh Allen has thrown for 2,996 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry has caught 65 passes for 1,213 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Cowboys are No. 24 in the nation in scoring, averaging 37.1 points per game.

“They’re kind of like us,” said BYU cornerback Troy Warner. “They have a running back who’s run for well over 1,000 yards. They have a receiver well over 1,000 yards and a quarterback that can create plays with his feet and scramble out of the pocket and throw the ball downfield. Their receivers do a good job of adjusting and making plays.”

“They are hard-working guys, tough players,” Tautu said. “It will be a good team for us to play against. I know they’re hungry and ready for some recognition. They have a big bowl game so we’re expecting them to come out and fight their hardest.”

Sitake said Wyoming's approach reflects Bohl's coaching style.

“If you look at their head coach and what he’s done in the past, they’re exactly what he does. They’re consistent and they play great defense," Sitake said. "They can do so many things on the offensive side.

"The quarterback has a good arm. He’s young and has a lot of poise in the pocket. It will be a challenge for our defense and a challenge for our offense," he continued. "I like the way they play the game. Like us, they have a lot of sportsmanship on the field. We look forward to sharing the field with them.”

Tautu said he trusts the game plan devised by defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki and his staff.

“Our coaches do a good job of scheming every team we play, whether we twist or move more or play straight up. It depends on the offensive scheme and what they’re doing and we play accordingly," Tuiaki said. "I think all of our players at this point in the season have gotten good at everything they ask us to do and so we’ll just go out and play the plays they call.”