Provo • It won't be completely known until late December which of BYU's big football wins through two-thirds of the 2013 season was the most impressive.
Will it be the 40-21 shellacking of defenseless-against-the-run Texas, or Friday night's 37-20 pounding of turnover-prone Boise State? Thorough thrashings of Utah State, 34-17, and Georgia Tech, 38-20, are looking better and better, too, as the Aggies show they can win without Chuckie Keeton and the Yellow Jackets rip through defenses not coached by BYU's Bronco Mendenhall.
What did become clear after BYU handed Boise State its first October loss in 12 years is that these guys truly believe the best is yet to come.
"We are still not where I think any of us know we can be, and that's what's fun, and that's what's exciting," Mendenhall said Friday night after reminding reporters that offensive coordinator Robert Anae's fall camp assessment about needing 5-6 games to get his uptempo offense in full gear is truly happening.
The Cougars have a bye this coming week, then face their biggest challenge of the season, a road game at No. 22 Wisconsin (5-2), which had a bye this weekend and will play at Iowa on Nov. 2 before welcoming BYU to Camp Randall Stadium on Nov. 9.
A win over Wisconsin would arguably be BYU's biggest since the 14-13 defeat of Oklahoma in the 2009 opener.
The Cougars will waltz into November and into Big Ten territory with all the faith in the world in sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill, something they didn't have a month ago. Hill played his best all-around game as a Cougar against the Broncos, completing 27 of 41 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also ran for 69 yards and a TD.
The numbers weren't as gaudy as in the 47-46 win over Houston, but he didn't commit a turnover and was sacked just twice.
Hill is "one of the best players I've ever coached," Mendenhall said. "I mean, he's really good in his decision-making. If you watched him the first half especially, the ball was just right on the money to different players. He's poised. He's composed. It looks like the game was really slow for him. He just seemed always ahead of it."
Although the offense sputtered after Hill's beautifully-thrown 40-yard touchdown pass to Mitch Mathews gave BYU a commanding 31-6 lead early in the third quarter, the defense came up with turnovers on three straight possessions to mask the abrupt failures.
Boise State's defense forced BYU to go three-and-out on four of five possessions before a nine-play drive capped by Justin Sorensen's 41-yard field goal made it a three-score game again.
The only time BYU didn't go three-and-out in that stretch was the series that started from the BSU 29. The Cougars picked up a first down when BSU safety Dillon Lukehart was penalized 15 yards and ejected for targeting Cody Hoffman in the end zone, but lost a yard on their next three plays and had to settle for a field goal.
Hill said after the game the play-calling got a bit too conservative, but was pleased with the offense's effort, especially the play of his receivers and offensive line.
"I feel like I've gotten better every week," Hill said. "Not only have I gotten better, but us as an offense has gotten better. I realize that I play a position that's in the limelight, so it is easy to just talk about my progression. But it has been a team thing, and it has been an offense thing … It took a little bit of time, but we found it."
So now, it is on to Wisconsin for the 6-2, extremely confident Cougars. Another opportunity to bag a season-defining win awaits.
Taysom Hill against Boise St.
• Completed 27 of 41 passes for 339 yards, three touchdowns.
• Rushed 18 times for 76 yards and a touchdown.
• Sacked twice for a loss of seven yards.
O BYU at Wisconsin
Nov. 9, time TBA