By JOHN COON
PROVO, Utah — BYU frustrated Boise State drive after drive. The Cougars broke up passes, stuffed runners on key downs, and created turnovers — a lot of turnovers.
BYU forced four turnovers, three on consecutive Broncos drives in the second-half, in its 37-20 victory Friday night.
“That’s what we’ve been focusing on for the past couple of weeks,” junior safety Craig Bills said. “We were emphasizing getting turnovers and just running to the ball and making plays. We were able to do that. It was great. It was huge for our defense.”
Bills forced a fumble in each half to spark the Cougars. It allowed BYU to pull away behind another strong performance from sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill.
Hill threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 69 yards and another score. He completed 27 of 41 passes to lead the Cougars (6-2) to their fifth straight victory — and their first in the four-game series with Boise State (5-3). Jamaal Williams ran for 107 yards.
Grant Hedrick threw for 232 yards and a touchdown in his first start for the Broncos and Jay Ajayi ran for 151 yards. Boise State was unable to overcome its turnover problems, however, and failed to give Chris Petersen a victory in his 100th game as head coach.
BYU ended Boise State’s 50-game October winning streak that dated to a 45-14 loss to Rice in 2001.
“We’re putting our defense in too much harm’s way,” Petersen said. “There’s no way they can hold up that long to a really good offense. BYU is a good team. They’re good on defense as well.”
Hill dominated from start to finish. In the first half, he threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns, ran for a score and had 306 yards of offense.
Boise State had trouble figuring out BYU’s defense early. The Broncos had only 37 yards of total offense and one first down in the first quarter. They also had a pair of early drives that ended in failed 4th down conversions.
The Cougars had 203 yards in the first quarter. They attacked the Broncos with a mix of runs and short passes to their tight ends. It paid off when Hill broke free for a 20-yard scamper into the end zone to open the scoring.
“Our defense is really good,” Hill said. “If we come out and execute offensively, we have an opportunity to do that against anybody we play.”
The Cougars made it 10-0 on Justin Sorensen’s 28-yard field goal to open the second quarter. Boise State answered with Dan Goodale’s 33-yard field goal.
BYU broke it open before halftime with big plays on both sides of the ball. BYU needed only 59 seconds to answer Boise State’s field goal, going up 17-3 on Hill’s 37-yard pass to Ross Apo. Three minutes later, the Cougars made it 24-3 on Cody Hoffman’s 4-yard reception — the school-record 31st TD catch of his career.
BYU set up Hoffman’s touchdown with a fumble recovery. Craig Bills stripped the ball from receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes, and Remington Peck recovered at the Broncos 47. Hoffman passed Austin Collie to break the record, and needs 14 yards to surpass Collie as BYU’s career leader in receiving yardage.
“It feels amazing,” Hoffman said. “I’m almost speechless about it because it was set by such a great player before me. It’s not an easy record and I take a lot of pride in it.”
In the third quarter, Ajayi had a 61-yard run to set up Goodale’s 41-yard field goal.
The Cougars made it 31-6 when Hill hit Mitch Matthews for a 40-yard completion on a crossing route. Boise State finally got its first touchdown a short time later when Hedrick ran for 9 yards on fourth down and punched it in from 5 yards out to make it 31-13. Williams-Rhodes set up the score with a punt return to the BYU 22.
BYU forced turnovers on three straight Boise State drives. Kyle Van Noy recovered Geraldo Boldewijn’s fumble, Skye PoVey picked off a pass from Hedrick on the next drive, and Remington Peck capped the turnover spurt by recovering Ajayi’s fumble.
“I told Coach Petersen after the game I thought that was one of the main differences in the game — being able to create turnovers and taking the football away,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I don’t think we necessarily capitalized as well as we could have on those turnovers, but I think that had something to do with the game’s outcome.”
The Broncos managed to score another touchdown, making it 34-20 when Hedrick found Troy Ware with a 14-yarder with 10:23 left.
Sorensen also made field goals of 34 and 41 yards for BYU. The final one slammed the door on any lingering chance of Boise State coming back late in the fourth quarter.
“We have to get back to basics,” Williams-Rhodes said. “Coach (Petersen) always tells us the person who is going to knock the ball out is the person behind us. We just got careless trying to make plays.”