PROVO — Defensive end Nate Orchard and cornerback Eric Rowe played significant roles in harassing quarterback Taysom Hill in Utah’s 20-13 win over BYU back in 2013.
When the NFL wraps up its preseason schedule tonight, those three will again be playing on the same field — this time at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Their game, with a 6 p.m. MT start, will be into the second half before the BYU-Utah contest kicks off at 8:15 p.m. at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
On that September night six years ago, Orchard had a half-sack on Hill in the fourth quarter and Rowe finished with six tackles and two pass deflections, including one on BYU’s final drive that ended fruitlessly with a Hail Mary pass falling to the ground.
Hill, meanwhile, struggled in his first rivalry start, competing just 18 of 48 passes for 260 yards and an interception, while rushing for 99 yards.
Fast forward six years, and all three will be among several players hoping to make one final solid impression during the New Orleans-Miami game. Hill and defensive end Corbin Kaufusi will represent BYU on the Saints sideline along with former Utes free safety Marcus Williams. Utah’s Orchard and Rowe are now with the Dolphins along with former BYU standout John Denney, the team’s veteran long snapper.
“Marcus and I have already had several conversations about the game,” Hill told reporters after practice Tuesday. “I’m excited to see what happens.”
Hill should see time under center in the NFL contest. He has had a strong preseason, completing 64 percent of his passes (27 of 42) for 343 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while also leading the team with 113 rushing yards on 13 attempts.
Orchard and Rowe have also had preseason success. Orchard is tied for first in the league in preseason sacks with four and has seven tackles, while Rowe intercepted Jacksonville starter Nick Foles last week and has six tackles in preseason.
This will be the final chance for athletes around the league to play in a game before Saturday’s NFL cutdown day, when all league teams must trim their active roster to 53 players for the regular season. Each year, around 30 or more players — depending on the season — with Utah ties are waived during this period.
Hill, the Saints’ third-string quarterback behind All-Pro veteran Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater, has become a valuable contributor for New Orleans on special teams and at a variety of positions on offense. As he heads into his third NFL season, Hill is looking to continue to grow and develop as a quarterback, with hopes of being the heir apparent to Brees.
“Early in your career … you know opportunities are going to be limited, and you’re trying to make the most of every opportunity but not try to make a mistake. As a young, undrafted player, that’s not easy to balance,” Hill said Tuesday. “Going into Year 3 for me, I feel more confident overall with may position on the team and just being able to go out and play.”
Orchard, a Highland High product, is trying to stick on an NFL roster in his fifth season as a pro. He spent his first three seasons with Cleveland after the Browns drafted him in 2015, then signed with Buffalo and Kansas City at different times during the 2018 season. Orchard briefly joined Seattle this offseason before signing with Miami in May.
“It’s preseason; at the same time, it’s great to be able to get out there and stack them back up,” Orchard told Dolphins team writer Alain Poupart. “It’s been a while. I’ve got to get back into my groove. Again, I’m in a great scheme where I can get that opportunity to go out and do what I love.”
Rowe arrived in Miami this offseason, signing as an unrestricted free agent after three seasons with New England, where he won a pair of Super Bowl rings. Injuries have slowed his past two seasons, and Rowe, a fifth-year pro who originally was drafted by Philadelphia, is looking to break into the starting lineup in Miami — he’s started the past two preseason games for the Dolphins.
“It’s a huge opportunity, especially me coming off IR last year, dealing with my groin issues the past two years,” Rowe told Poupart. “Me just to get another chance to play kind of up to my potential, I don’t take it lightly. Really just to get the chance to start, it could be here or anywhere, I’m just going to take advantage of it.”