One Cougar offense (Houston) played really well, while the other was not as sharp as would be expected for the seventh game of the season. And, once again, it all started with a less-than-adequate performance by the offensive line. For the second straight game, it was a BYU defensive play that turned the tide towards victory.
Taysom Hill threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. One interception should have been caught by Mathews, who didn't come back for the ball as Hill was scrambling to make a play. This was a game where quarterback play was both good and bad, but the lack of play from the quarterback position was primarily a result of poor offensive line play and play-calling. Pass protection from the line and from the running backs often broke down, forcing Hill to make a play on his own on a consistent basis. Rarely did Hill have a clean pocket to throw from, but when he did, he was able to throw the ball with accuracy. This game was won by the will of Hill without much help from his offensive line. BYU squeaked away with one, and Cougar fans can thank Taysom Hill for that.
Running backs: C
Against a defensive front considered smaller than expected, the running backs struggled to run the ball effectively between the tackles. Most of this lack of performance can be directly placed on the shoulders of the offensive line. But with Houston blitzing a lot during passing downs, this game showed the running backs' inabilities to pick up blitzes well. There were far too many execution errors in the pass-protection schemes, and when the BYU offense is struggling to convert long plays on second down, the running backs have to block more effectively on third-and-long in order for Hill to be successful. Far too often did Hill have to try and make a play with his legs due to poor pass protection from the backs and the offensive line.
Wide receivers: A
In a game in which BYU's offense needed the receivers to make plays on a consistent basis, they didn't disappoint. Skyler Ridley turned his best receiving performance of his career, keeping BYU's offense on the field with acrobatic catches and sheer hand play. Ross Apo turned in one of his best games at a BYU Cougar by scoring two touchdowns. Cody Hoffman surpassed Dennis Pitta to now become BYU's all-time reception leader, while adding another touchdown to his resume to tie Austin Collie's all-time receiving touchdown record of 30. Mitch Mathews also got into the action and provided timely catches when needed. Overall it was a very productive performance in regards to route running, securing the ball with key catches, and scoring touchdowns to help the offense.
Tight ends: C
The tight end performance was adequate but not spectacular in the one major area of responsibility it's been relegated most to: blocking. There were far too many plays when the tight end blocking was average in the run game, and the tight ends were mostly nonexistent once again in the passing game. The tight end position didn't produce much this game and needs to improve both in blocking and pass-catching.
Offensive line: D
Collectively this was one of the worst unit performances by the offensive line over the course of this season, and the season is already seven games in. The Cougar offensive front was supposed to be bigger, stronger and more powerful than the Houston front seven. However, as a unit this group's performance was as porous as a sponge holding back a hurricane-like deluge. Far too many times were there too many mistakes with ball snaps, blocking assignments, or pass protection. There was also a lack of physicality and a lack of push up front. The offensive line play was lacking in every sense of the game. Far too many times Hill was forced out of the pocket, sacked, and had to make up for a lack of protection with his legs.
The weakness of BYU's defense is the secondary, and it showed on Saturday. The only unit that played worse was the offensive line. However, the defense did just enough to get the victory, and for the second straight game, Alani Fua came through to seal the victory.
Defensive line: C
The defensive line lost containment on several occasions, allowing for the Houston offense to sustain drives. In a game where Houston was going to place pressure on BYU's secondary, the defensive line needed to play gap-assignment-sound in order to allow the linebackers to drop into coverage. The defensive front played much better against a more talented offensive line in Georgia Tech last week.
The linebacker group as a whole played well for the most part. Kyle Van Noy could have had a much better game and added a few more sacks to his resume if his level of physicality was a notch higher. On the other side of Van Noy, Alani Fua made another outstanding play in coverage that sealed the victory for the Cougars of BYU. From the middle of the defense, Uani Unga had another big game defending against the run and pass. Unga totaled double-digit tackles again, but there were quite a few missed tackles, sloppy play, and missed opportunities from the linebackers that allowed Houston's offense to stay on the field at times longer than desired.
The Cougar secondary was tested heavily by true freshman quarterback John O'Korn. The secondary even struggled at times in the nickel package on clear passing downs, when an advantage was in the hands of the defense. There were far too many costly mistakes that allowed Houston's offense to go for big gains time and time again. The bright spot within the Cougar secondary was Daniel Sorensen, who continues to tally interceptions and provide outstanding coverage downfield. Mike Hague also provided some positive play and should have had a fumble recovery.
Special teams: C
The special teams were anything but special, giving up a touchdown on a kickoff return to set the tone for Houston early. There was little pressure provided by BYU's special teams units on punts, and the punt return unit didn't help out BYU's offense much by providing good field position. Justin Sorensen was perfect in extra points, but overall the special teams execution was average in comparison to previous games. Adam Hine also continues to be a threat to return the ball with every kick return and nearly did so again against Houston. Hine returned a kick for about 48 yards to help swing momentum back into BYU's corner.