HOUSTON — BYU struggled mightily against Houston but did just enough down the stretch to escape with a hard-fought victory. In the end, quarterback Taysom Hill found Skyler Ridley in the near corner of the end zone to secure it for his team.
Here's a look at how BYU graded out against Houston on Saturday.
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The offense started out on fire but bogged down considerably in the second half. Most of the second-half problems can be chalked up to porous and inconsistent offensive line play. Fortunately, the offense was able to do just enough at the end to secure a thrilling come-from-behind victory.
Hill finished with 29 of 44, passing for 417 yards and four touchdowns — including his game-winning strike to Ridley with 1:10 remaining. He also ran the ball 34 times for 128 yards.
Several receivers stepped up big, including Cody Hoffman, who had seven receptions for 156 yards and a touchdown and Ross Apo, who scored two early touchdowns. The Cougar ground game was hampered considerably when Jamaal Williams left the game early in the second half with a hip injury.
Overall the offense receives high marks for 681 total yards gained and 47 points scored. It gets docked points for bogging down for much of the second half and for three turnovers.
It was an atypical performance from a typically stout BYU defense. Houston put up 46 points and 483 yards — led by quarterback John O'Korn who finished with 363 yards and three touchdowns.
Big plays did the Cougars in for the better part of the game. Blown coverages and a surprising amount of missed open-field tackles both contributed heavily to Houston's overall success.
Regardless of its struggles, the BYU defense managed to perform when it mattered most. It held Houston scoreless during a critical red zone situation late and provided a three-and-out to ensure the offense would have ample time to produce its game-winning drive.
For the first time this season, BYU lost the special teams battle. Kick coverage yielded an early touchdown, the punting was spotty and the return game failed to provide the great field possession it has so far this season.
Punter Scott Arrellano did pin Houston deep on a couple of occasions late, which played big in determining the final outcome.
The offense came out firing on all cylinders while the defense looked surprisingly unprepared for Houston's wide-open attack. This was flipped somewhat in the second half as the offense again failed to make necessary adjustments to slow down Houston's pass rush.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall made a gutty cornerback blitz call late that paid off big-time with Mike Hague dropping O'Korn to a big loss that led to a miss on a 40-yard field goal.
It's never easy to win on the road, but BYU should have handled Houston easily. It did not, but did manage to do enough to come away with a victory. Good football teams figure out how to gut out wins when not playing their best ball, and that's what BYU did Saturday afternoon in Houston.