Typically a player’s Heisman moment comes in the middle or the tail end of their season. In the last two successful Heisman campaigns we saw it for Johnny Manziel at Alabama and Florida State’s Jameis Winston coming through with three touchdowns at Florida in 2013.
For Brighham Young University quarterback Taysom Hill, his likely came in just the second week of the Cougars' schedule.
Holding a slim 6-0 lead against the Texas Longhorns, and a raucous Austin crowd as the 12th man, the junior found a crease and gunned towards the end zone. With 10 yards between Hill and paydirt, Longhorns defensive back Dylan Haines zoomed in for the late tackle, hoping to prevent the game’s first touchdown. Instead, Hill hurdled the diving Haines to finish off the 30-yard touchdown scamper.
That was the first of four straight touchdown drives led by the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Hill, and BYU would roll to a 41-7 win. Doing most of his damage on the ground, Hill totaled 280 yards of offense, and went 18-for-28 from the air with one interception. It was a steep drop-off compared to Hill’s performance against Texas last season, when he rushed for 259 yards and three scores in another 40-21 rout, but the result was the same and he’s now picking up national attention for his repeat performance against another talent-laden Longhorns defense.
What’s scary is that Hill’s numbers could have been even bigger if this 66-yard touchdown run wasn’t called back for holding. (Watch video below)
Unquestionably, that performance sent Hill to the top of the short list for this year’s Heisman, somewhere not far behind Georgia’s sensational running back Toddy Gurley and Oregon star quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Like Hill, Gurley and Mariota have started the season hot. Gurley pulled ahead early by gaining 293 all-purpose yards and four-touchdowns against Clemson. Mariota lit up a highly rated Michigan State defense for 318 passing yards and three touchdowns in the 46-27 come-from-behind victory.
But Hill still has the chance to be the first Cougar to claim college football’s most prestigious individual award in more than 20 years. The only BYU player to claim the trophy was quarterback Ty Detmer back in 1990. That year Detmer threw for 5,188 yards and 41 touchdowns to 28 interceptions, and he essentially took home the award for leading BYU past then No. 1 Miami for a 28-21 victory.
Under Detmer that year the Cougars went 10-3, but Hill has the chance to lead BYU to an undefeated season and make a serious claim on the Heisman. According to ESPN, following the Texas victory the Cougars now have the best chance to run the table with a remaining schedule ranked No. 75 in the country.
Hill and the Cougars now begin a three-game home stand, with Houston, Virginia and Utah State making trips to LaVell Edwards Stadium. Afterwards three of their next four games are on the road, with BYU’s toughest game for the rest of the season likely being their trip to Boise State.
If Hill can get past the Broncos, an invitation from the Heisman Trust might be in order.