Hill had about as good of an opening game as one could have had. Considered at best a long shot Heisman contender before the season began, Hill is now on several Heisman hopeful Top 10 lists based on a monster performance he had in a 35-10 win at UConn in week 1.
A 308-yard, 3-TD passing performance combined with 97 yards on the ground and three more TDs rushing the football have caused Hill's teammates, opponents and even journalists around the country to start offering superlatives--when before, most only dealt in hypotheticals when talking about the BYU quarterback.
The dual-threat quarterback from Pocatello, Idaho was precise as he cut up UConn's defense, completing 28 of the 36 passes he attempted. Hill confused UConn's defense all night long with zone reads at the line of scrimmage--further complicating matters for a young Husky defense that hasn't had much success stopping anyone. But that didn't stop USA Today from heaping on the praise.
In USA Today's column on Wed. Sept. 3, for example, the media there had Hill unranked prior to the UConn game. Hill wasn't even a blip on anyone's radar screen. Now all of a sudden, Hill is ranked No. 9 on USA Today's Heisman hopefuls list, because Hill showed "great poise and presence as a passer" against the Huskies.
Too early to put Hill up there with guys like Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Georgia's running back Todd Curley? Some say no way. Others like Sports Illustrated, have been around for a lot longer than either of those papers and so it will wait and see until after Hill plays his next game, at the mighty Texas Longhorns.
That makes perfect sense, considering Hill torched Texas for 259 yards rushing last season in a win, leading the 'Horns to fire their defensive coordinator the next day. Think Texas doesn't want revenge? Have you ever talked to a Texas fan about the BYU game? It's best to avoid such conversation.
On the flip side, you can see why SI is taking a wait and see approach with Hill. BYU was playing UConn, a team that won three games the past two years before firing its lame-duck coach. If Hill can get 'er done deep in the heart of Texas in front of 110,000 fans--not easy in any situation--then he deserves all the national adoration, and then some with a side of baked beans.
One Texas assistant added he thinks Hill resembles Tim Tebow based on the things the BYU quarterback can do. Vance Bedford, the 'Horns new defensive coordinator in charge of preventing Hill from running for anything close to 259 this weekend in Austin, said he can see the similarities. After all, Bedford was coaching at Florida in 2008 when Tebow was there--so he got a bird's eye view into the Tebow legend.
"He's 235 pounds. He's a strong guy, like a fullback when he gets the football in his hands. He's a little Tim Tebow-ish. Running around, make plays. He's faster than you think he is, he throws well on the run," Bedford said. "Third down and short, he becomes a fullback. You see a quarterback power, a quarterback lead, he's a handful. If we can't contain him, it's gonna be hard to win that ballgame."
Hill may have won the first lap of the Heisman race in some 35,000 seat stadium in Connecticut--or at least put up good stats while trying--but he'll need an even better performance in a monumental test against Texas if he's going to stir interest outside of Utah.
A 97-yard rushing day for Hill against Texas won't get anyone excited. Three touchdowns certainly will and 300 yards passing will go a long way towards getting BYU a victory. Yet, it will take something more, perhaps a more Tebow-like performance from the BYU junior--whose unique quarterbacking style is unlike anything anyone has ever seen at the Provo, Utah school known for producing passers.
Hill knows everyone on this schedule is gunning for him, looking for a piece--or more, perhaps--of his No. 4 jersey. He looks at Texas as just another big-name opponent on a schedule filled with big-name opponents and his goal is the same each and every week.
“It’s football. Every quarterback has a target on his back,” Hill said Wednesday. “It’s all the same. Last week it was all about UConn. This week, it’s all about Texas. Each game is a big one to me. My mindset is to win each of them.”