Pleasant Surprises Abound in BYU Season Opener

The season opener always has a few surprises for players and coaches, as well as for fans. These surprises can be either good or bad things. Fortunately, this year, the first game of the season for the Brigham Young Cougars offered several positive surprises. Here at Blue Cougar Football, we have already discussed the biggest surprise, the emergence of Kaneakua Friel at Tight End. Here are three more surprises that make the rest of the season look promising.

1. Skyler Ridley

Seeing Cody Hoffman limp off the field in the first quarter was not a promising sight to see. Up to that point he had already made three big catches for third down conversions, and there were naturally big expectations for him starting this season. Hoffman would not re-enter the game, but it didn’t matter. Just four plays later, junior receiver Skyler Ridley made the first reception of his career – a seven-yard touchdown in the back corner of the end zone. Ridley went on to make several more big catches, finishing the game with 6 receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown. Often Ridley took a big hit after the catch, but hung on to the ball.

While fans hope to see Hoffman back as soon as possible, it is good to know that other guys among the receivers corps can and will step up when need be. This is especially so since the receivers have been a point of frustration for fans in recent years. I look forward to watching Ridley and others this year to see how they continue to make important contributions.

2. Taysom Hill

Naturally, most of the excitement at quarterback this year has revolved around senior Riley Nelson. Everyone has been eager to see how he performs this year after his stellar play in the second half of 2011 earned him the starting spot.  While Nelson did not disappoint, the real surprise at quarterback was freshman Taysom Hill. Hill only took a small handful of snaps, being used as a situational quarterback, but his singular performance on his very first collegiate snap was more than enough to give fans some assurance about the future of BYU football.

After failing to get the 1st down on 3rd and 1 18 yards away from the end zone, Hill was sent in to get the extra yard on 4th down. With BYU only up a touchdown, it was an important moment in the game. The true freshman handled the pressure like a champ – taking the snap, Hill faked the reverse and then scrambled to his right. While he had a clear path for the 1st down, Hill set his gaze up field where he found Friel open at the goal line for the touchdown.

While we should be careful not to draw any firm conclusions or set our expectations too high from this one play, it is very promising to see Hill step-up like that on his very first snap in a pressure packed situation.

3. The Offense as a Whole

The only other time the BYU Offense has scored 30 or more points in a season opener during the Bronco Mendenhall era was in the 41-17 victory over Northern Iowa in 2008. The average points scored by BYU in season openers since Mendenhall took over the team in 2005 is 19.75, which includes 4 games where BYU scored only 2 touchdowns or less. So it was nice to see the BYU offense get to end zone 3 times in the first half. While the offense did stall in the red zone in the second half, the success getting to the end zone in the first half was a welcome surprise.

Scoring wasn’t the only thing the offense did well. Given some of BYU’s struggles with turnovers in recent years, it was good to see the BYU offense play a turnover free game to start the season. Hopefully, the BYU offense will continue to take care of the ball and put points on the board as the season wears on. 

We are surely in for several more surprises as the season rolls on. Inevitably, some of those surprises are going to be less-than-pleasant, but for now we can take comfort in the fact the season opener was full of pleasant surprises. 

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at