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Provo • Along with visiting his family in Pocatello, Idaho, last weekend when BYU had a bye, quarterback Taysom Hill made some national television appearances, including one in which Tony Barnhart of CBS Sports suggested the sophomore might be throwing his name into the Heisman Trophy race.

That's really far-fetched, and Hill pretty much passed it off as such. Then again, the thought of such a thing illustrates the depth of Hill's turnaround this season because anyone who would have put Hill's name and Heisman in the same sentence a month ago would have been dismissed as crazy.

"We're really lucky he's at BYU," coach Bronco Mendenhall said.

Many of the same fans who wrote off Hill as a bust after the Cougars fell to 1-2 with a 20-13 home loss to Utah on Sept. 21 probably are in agreement.

Hill obviously isn't going to win any national quarterbacking honors this season, but his campaign for 2014 begins in earnest Saturday when the 6-2 Cougars venture into Big Ten country to take on No. 21 Wisconsin (6-2) at Camp Randall Stadium (1:30 p.m. MST, ESPN).

"Being independent has given us a lot of opportunities to travel and see a lot of different venues and be in different environments," Hill said Monday. "Going to Wisconsin and playing there gives us a great opportunity to make noise on the national level. They are ranked in the top 25, they [are] a known program throughout the country. It will give us an opportunity to go into a hostile environment and show what we can do against a very good opponent."

He easily could have been speaking for himself.

After Hill completed just 35.1 percent of his passes and had one of the lowest passing efficiency numbers in the country — 74.2 in his first three games — Saturday's showdown was shaping up to be a colossal mismatch. But the remarkable turnaround of the BYU offense, spearheaded by Hill, has the Cougars smelling an upset.

Hill has completed 65.4 percent of his passes in the last five games, and his passing efficiency for those games alone is 157.1, a number that would put him 15th in the country and one spot ahead of Oregon State's Sean Mannion.

"It is really just the entire offense, just each guy improving at his position and as a unit," quarterbacks coach Jason Beck said. "Then our execution, our protection, [the play] of our receivers and running backs. It is just the chemistry, getting on the same page [that has led to the turnaround]."

Hill's running ability, which he displayed for the first time this season when he rushed for 259 yards in a 40-21 win over Texas in the second week, never was in question. He's 20th in the nation in rushing, averaging 105.1 yards per game, and sixth in total offense at 357.5 yards per game.

He can become the first BYU player to throw for more than 2,000 yards (he has 2,019) and rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season with just 159 more yards rushing. Only 21 players have done that in major college football history.

Only six players in history have rushed for more than 1,000 yards and passed for more than 3,000, a passing total that is within Hill's grasp with five games remaining.

For his part, Hill has done and said all the right things, refusing to lash out at his detractors after proving many disbelievers wrong.

"It is what it is," he said. "And that can change just as quickly as it changed before. If I based how I played or how I felt on the fans and the media, and what [reporters] said about me, it would be a constant roller-coaster. ... I just don't worry about that. I worry about becoming my best self and controlling the things that I can control." —

Taysom Hill's turnaround

First Three Games (vs. Virginia, Texas, Utah)

Comp. Pct. Yards per Attempt Yards Per Catch Pass Efficiency

35.1 4.95 14.1 74.2

Last Five Games (vs. MTSU, USU, Ga. Tech, Houston, Boise State)

Comp. Pct. Yards per attempt Yards per catch Pass efficiency

65.4 8.98 13.7 157.1

Overall season

Comp. Pct. Yards per attempt Yards per catch Pass efficiency

52.9 7.3 13.8 122.9 —

BYU at Wisconsin

P Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MT


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