No. 25 BYU holds off Houston’s late rally

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Taysom Hill runs one in for 6
Taysom Hill runs in a touchdown late in the first quarter in Thursday’s game against Houston. (Elliott Miller)

No. 25 BYU (3-0) pulled out a 33-25 win against Houston (1-2) on Thursday, Sept. 11 in behind a strong but turnover-prone performance from Taysom Hill.

BYU came out excited and ready to play and took a quick lead in the first quarter, but barely held on late in the game to win.

“It was good enough to win,” quarterback Taysom Hill said. “So we got the win, we put our defense in some tough situations, which [they] obviously [weren’t] happy about, but we did enough to win a football game and that’s what we’re after.”

Hill came out the gates firing, completing 14 of his 24 passes for a total of 170 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He ended the night 21-34 for a total of 200 yards, finding it tougher to build momentum in the second half, but kept the Cougars alive with his efforts.

Offensively, the BYU Cougars ran for a total of 323 yards and three touchdowns. Jamaal Williams had 28 carries for 139 yards and two touchdowns, while Hill ran for 160 yards on 26 carries and one rushing touchdown.

BYU quickly jumped out an early lead in the first quarter with a safety by Zac Stout on Houston’s second possession. BYU capitalized on its’ next possession, setting up an 11-yard touchdown rush by Williams. A 5-yard touchdown run from Hill put BYU on top 16-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Houston had a shot to score in the first quarter with a field goal, but because of a muffed hold, BYU was able to block it.

An 87-yard drive in the early minutes of the second quarter pushed BYU’s lead to 23, as Hill completed a 6-yard pass to Mitch Mathews for the score. BYU fans were embracing for a blowout.

But the Houston Cougars weren’t going down without a fight.

Houston drove down field on their next possession, and capped it off with a 29-yard field goal, cutting into BYU’s lead 23-3.

Hill’s first pass on BYU’s next drive was intercepted, leading to Houston quarterback John O’Korn finding Deontay Greenberry in the end zone for a 7-yard pass reception. The PAT was no good, and BYU maintained its’ 23-9 lead.

BYU had an opportunity to score, getting the ball back with 1:17 remaining in the half. Houston was able to force a fumble, giving them three seconds to go 45 yards for a score.

Houston did just that.

O’Korn connected with Daniel Spencer on a Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired in the half, cutting Houston’s deficit to eight points at 23-15.

Both teams had great defensive stops in the third quarter. A 26-yard field goal by BYU’s kicker Trevor Samson pushed the lead to 26-15 at the end of the third.

Zac Stout with a safety in the 1st quarter.
Zac Stout tackles the Houston running back in the end zone for a safety. (Elliott Miller)

BYU drove 56 yards early in the fourth quarter, with Williams running in a 2-yard touchdown, putting the Cougars up by 18 with 11:47 left to play in the game.

Houston rallied with a 68-yard drive, finishing with O’Korn finding Greenberry again in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown, cutting BYU’s lead 33-22 with 9:09 left to play.

Houston defender Trevon Stewart ripped the ball out of BYU’s Mitchell Juergens’ hands on BYU’s following possession, giving Houston a chance to come back. But BYU’s defense was able to hold Houston to only a field goal on Houston’s possession from strong defense by Craig Bills and Dallin Leavitt. Houston pulled within a touchdown, 33-25.

BYU was forced to punt on its’ next drive, giving Houston 2:49 on the clock to go and 88 yards for the tie. But BYU’s defense forced a three-and-out making Houston punt, giving BYU 2:24 to run out the clock.

BYU was able to take a knee to end the game after big runs from Williams and Hill, giving the Cougars their third win in three weeks.

“Hard fought game, a lot of credit to Houston to rallying back,” Bronco Mendenhall said. “Our team found a way to continue to battle, to continue to fight. Great defensive stops at the end. A couple of first downs that we absolutely needed to have … overall hard fought win, plenty to clean up, but we learned a lot and the team hung together.”

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