BYU’s offense got off to a hot start, pushing their lead to 23-0 in the 2nd quarter. The offense began to falter and sputter after the Houston Cougars were able to snag a tipped ball for an interception and recover a fumble by Mitchell Juergens in the second quarter. BYU, to their credit, stayed in the game and found some traction in the second half and made enough plays to win the game and also kill the game with their 4 minute offense.
Taysom Hill had his issues on Thursday night, struggling to complete some passes across the middle but he used his legs and arm effectively enough to lead BYU to a win. Hill finished the game 21/34 for 200 yards 1 TD/2 INT to go along with 160 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. BYU’s offensive line faltered against Houston so Hill found the going rough but did enough to win the game. That’s the mark of a good player.
Jamaal Williams looks like he is finally rounding into form as he carried the ball 28 times for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns. Williams was expected to shoulder the load for BYU in 2014 and after serving a suspension against UConn and splitting reps against Texas, he’s ready to go. Paul Lasike and Adam Hine also played well in limited roles with Algernon Brown out due to injury. BYU’s run game was very strong, totaling 347 yards on the ground.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
BYU’s receiving core got off to a hot start on Thursday but as the game wore on, they found it increasingly difficult to get separation from the Houston secondary. Jordan Leslie shined in the first half, snagging 6 passes for 79 yards. Mitch Mathews scored a touchdown on a nice flag route in the endzone. He totaled 4 catches for 22 yards. Devon Blackmon would have scored on his first career reception for BYU had he been lined up properly. His score was nullified due to an illegal formation. Terenn Houk and Blackmon each hauled in one reception on the night. True freshman Trey Dye recorded his first 2 receptions of his career. Mitchell Juergens had a rough night, losing a fumble on a punt and having a reception ripped away from him late. Overall, it was a less than stellar showing by the BYU receivers.
Devin Mahina caught one ball for 16 yards on Thursday night but looked more effective in run blocking than he had in the first 2 games of the season. Bryan Sampson also saw some reps on Thursday but did not do anything that showed up on the stat sheet.
BYU’s offensive line had their worst showing of the 2014 season against Houston. Houston’s defense effectively blitzed and moved their alignments to confuse the BYU offensive line and harassed Taysom Hill. Tejan Koroma was ejected for throwing a punch in the game and his absence appeared to throw off some of the continuity the line had. BYU did rush for 347 yards which is a good mark but it was still a performance to forget for the most part.
BYU’s defense was called upon to slow down an onslaught by the Houston Cougar offense multiple times and did just enough to curb the Cougars’ attack to ensure a victory. It looked like early on Houston might fold in the face of a 23-0 deficit early on but they battled back and made BYU earn the win. BYU’s defense continues to build continuity with many players seeking to find their niche on the team but they did their part to ensure a BYU victory.
Houston effectively gave up running the football early on against BYU, settling on a plan to throw the ball downfield. This relegated BYU’s defense to play their dime and nickel packages and limiting the role the BYU defensive line played in the game. Overall it was a decent performance for the line as they were able to pressure John O’Korn even though they only officially tallied 2 hurries. The ankle injury to Marques Johnson in the second quarter will bear watching to see if it will cause him to miss any extended time.
BYU’s linebackers saw a lot of the field on Thursday as they were on the field to combat the Houston offense. Zac Stout set the tone early with a safety and also was upended by a Houston lineman on a blitz later in the game. BYU put as many as 6 linebackers on the field at times in an effort to confuse the Houston offensive line and pressure John O’Korn. Alani Fua had a standout performance from his outside linebacker position, getting around the edge to harass O’Korn on multiple occasions and also setting the edge on the rare running play by Houston.
BYU’s secondary was forced to defend a lot on Thursday as Houston threw the ball 53 times. John O’Korn started out slow but picked up steam in the second and third quarters before cooling off in the fourth. BYU’s failure to defend a hail mary at the end of the first half was an egregious error that Robertson Daniel took the blame for postgame. Craig Bills was playing with reckless abandon for his body, laying the wood on multiple Houston receivers as they tracked across the middle of the field. Houston made plays that made the BYU secondary look silly but the BYU secondary had the last laugh as they did enough to ensure a victory.
BYU’s special teams are coming along. The kicking game has been a major concern early on in the season but Trevor Samson is steady as the place kicker and Andrew Mikkelsen has come a long way in kicking the ball downfield on kickoffs. Scott Arellano is starting to show signs of consistency and unleashed a fantastic 54 yard punt in the face of an all-out rush by Houston. Arellano did try and make a play on a fake punt that was not effective in the least but did humor the spectators by indicating first down even though he was a clearly short of the line to gain.
BYU struggled to contain the Houston returners in Houston last season but the coverage units were stellar on Thursday, bottling up every return the Cougars had. The punt cover unit was also effective in their efforts.
Devon Blackmon looks like he could be poised to assume the role of fulltime punt returner for BYU as Mitchell Juergens fumbled one punt return and struggled to make things happen in his other attempts. Blackmon danced on his returns and looked to be bottled up on his second before finding a seam and cruising up field for a total of a 16 yard return. BYU knows that Blackmon has speed and they are looking for a role for him to shine in. Punt return may just be the spot for him to shine.