Quietly but deliberately and effectively, Jaren Hall is having a season for the ages as a BYU starting quarterback.

Hall has done some things quite unique and incredible for a BYU quarterback. The sophomore is the first in that elite QB club to win five games against Power Five opponents. He has a big hand in establishing a 4-0 record over Pac-12 schools this season, having faced all four.

He has protected the football with uncanny prudence in an offense that has attacked defenses deep down the field. The Cougars had four turnovers in a loss to Boise State but had just three in the other eight games and rank No. 14 in the NCAA in turnovers lost.

The fact that BYU is 5-1 against P5 defenses is remarkable when you consider the QBs on BYU’s teams that never did that, or, more appropriately, did not have the opportunity to play this kind of schedule.

Back in the day, Gary Sheide, Gifford Nielsen, Jim McMahon, Marc Wilson, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco and Ty Detmer racked up tons of NCAA records, posting gaudy numbers against defenses that, simply put, had no clue how to defend the pass. Remember Wilson’s first start at Colorado State when he threw an NCAA record seven touchdown passes?

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Back then, blistering defenses at UTEP, New Mexico and even Utah, was a blood sport for BYU football. But it became very difficult the past two decades because of the influence of NFL coaching in college football. Today all college teams are far better equipped to defend, cover, create multiple fronts, pressure, and deploy and disguise confusing blitz schemes to disrupt the passing game.

They had to.

Just look at the defenses Hall has maneuvered against this season and who was behind the scenes trying to stop him with game plans and highly rated talent.

At Utah, you have Kyle Whittingham’s tremendous record of taking his father Fred’s philosophy as a veteran NFL coach to develop what is considered the Pac-12’s best defenses over the past decade. It doesn’t hurt to have former NFL defensive lineman Sione Po’uha, an eight-year NFL player for the New York Jets coaching the defensive linemen.

At Arizona State, you have NFL faces all over Herm Edwards’ staff. Edwards himself is a former NFL head coach for eight years with the Jets and Chiefs and played in the league 10 years. His chief assistant Marvin Lewis was an NFL head coach of 16 years, part of 25 years in the NFL with the Bengals, Washington, Steelers. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum coached with the Green Bay Packers and coached in three Pro Bowls and has a Super Bowl ring.

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ASU’s defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez had that same position with the Minnesota Vikings, linebacker coach Chris Claiborne, a Hall of Fame linebacker at USC, won the Butkus Award and played eight seasons in the NFL with Detroit, Minnesota, St. Louis Rams and the New York Giants.

Sun Devils defensive back coach Donnie Henderson coached eight NFL Pro Bowlers, has a Super Bowl ring and was a defensive coordinator in the big league, a career spent with the Ravens, Jets, Bengals, Jaguars, Cardinals and Bills.

At Arizona, the new staff onboard includes defensive backs coach Chuck Cecil, who coached that position and was a defensive coordinator in the NFL with the Rams and Titans. He once had three players from the same NFL team named to the Pro Bowl — something that had never happened before (2008, Titans) and was a Pro Bowl safety. Arizona’s linebacker coach Ricky Hunley coached in Super Bowls XXI and XXII with the Broncos and spent time with the Bengals, Raiders and Redskins.

This week’s picks


Georgia 42, Missouri 14


Ohio State 28, Nebraska 17


Wake Forest 34, North Carolina 21


California 27, Arizona 21


Michigan State 31, Purdue 21


Cincinnati 38, Tulsa 17


Oregon State 42, Colorado 24


Arizona State 28, Southern Cal 21


Oregon 37, Washington 24


Utah State 42, New Mexico State 14


Utah 37, Stanford 21


BYU 42, Idaho State 9


Last week 8-3; overall 102-52 (.662)


The defensive backs coach at Arizona, DeWayne Walker, once coached at BYU. His NFL experience includes seven years with the Jaguars, Browns, Giants, Washington and New England.

Against Virginia, BYU did not face an NFL-experienced-laden coaching staff, but the Cavaliers did bring in Bronco Mendenhall’s storied training, his emphasis on position mastery, accountability and unique blitz packages so many BYU fans yearn to see deployed again in Provo. Hall helped deliver 66 points — the most ever against a Mendenhall defense or team.

This is why BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick praised Hall this week, underlining that Hall does not get all the credit he deserves — that he’s gone about quietly doing his job, perfecting his craft during the real first season of his college career that he has played numerous games in a row. 

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“His decision-making is as good as I’ve ever seen at quarterback. He doesn’t make mistakes and takes great care of the football. His deep-ball throws are just so on the money,”  Roderick told reporters.

Some have wondered if Hall has the arm strength because some of his long pass have come up short. Roderick said that was by design and it takes skill to do that.

“The last thing we want is to overthrow our deep balls, and so he’s got a great feel for where, how to underthrow those, how to back-shoulder them, where to put them ... it’s as good as I’ve ever seen.”

With the Idaho State game on Saturday and a bye week the next, Hall is expected to continue to heal from injuries suffered in the ASU game that kept him out of the South Florida game. That he will feel more comfortable in using his legs to keep defenses guessing is an added weapon. He has 247 yards rushing this season. 

College football has evolved over the decades with offenses exploding with the run-and-shoot, the Air Raid and other concoctions. And defenses have responded with similar adjustments, a lot of it from the NFL as evidenced in the Pac-12.

In nine games, at 7-2, BYU is averaging 440.4 yards per game with five P5 wins. Only BYU and No. 1 Georgia have that many P5 wins heading into Week 10 of the season.


Here are the Pac-12’s top seven defenses this season

Team — YPG

Washington — 324.9 

Arizona State — 331.1

California— 365.9

Utah — 371.6

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Arizona — 385.4

Oregon — 391.5

Washington State — 392.7

Note: Bolded teams denote teams BYU has played this season.

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