HOUSTON — The bad news for BYU: The defense got gouged by the Houston offense for483 yards and 46 points. The good news: The offense put up 681 yards on an FBS record 115 plays and Taysom Hill connected with Skyler Ridley for the game-winning touchdown with one minute to play to take the 47–46 barn burner at Reliant Stadium on Saturday.
“That was the wildest football game I think I’ve ever been a part of,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “That was amazing. I’m just proud of how our guys kept trying. We had two handfuls of mistakes, but we made enough plays to win the game.”
Hill threw for a career-high 417 yards and four touchdown passes, besting Houston at its own air-raid game. Hill also ran for 128 more yards on 34 carries, becoming the first player to rush for more than 100 yards against Houston this season. Hill said the performance is one he has always wanted as a quarterback.
“As a quarterback, that’s what you think about — throwing for 400 yards or whatever it was,” Hill said. “It was a great win, and we had a chance to battle back and win.”
The game could not have started better for the BYU Cougars, when Spencer Hadley, recently returned from his 3-game suspension, intercepted John O’Korn’s first pass of the game. Jamaal Williams put it in the end zone three plays later to take the 7–0 lead less than a minute into the game.
The BYU offense continued to look unstoppable through the first half, scoring on four of its first five possessions, two of which were touchdown passes from Hill to Ross Apo, who had the kind of game not seen since his 2010 breakout year. Cody Hoffman, who became the all-time leader in receptions at BYU with his first catch of the game, said he thought they surprised Houston with how much they threw the ball.
“We knew they were going to single coverage a lot on the outside and stack the box to stop the run,” Hoffman said. “It kind of caught them off guard how much we passed.”
But Houston responded punch for punch with its Cougar counterparts with a couple of haymakers. Speedy freshman Demarcus Ayers took a kickoff 95 yards for Houston’s first points of the game, and linebacker Derrick Mathews intercepted Hill and returned it for a 29-yard touchdown.
With the exception of a 69-yard touchdown pass from change-of-pace quarterback Greg Ward to Xavier Maxwell, the Houston offense was stagnant for the first quarter, but the two non-offensive touchdowns kept the game close at 24–21 at the end of the opening quarter. BYU had not allowed a team to score more than 21 points in a game for 12 straight outings, but allowed all of it in the first quarter. Alani Fua said he knows the coaches will have a lot to say next week.
“We got the win and that’s all that matters,” he said. “Come Monday, I’m sure the coaches will have a lot to say to us.”
The two teams traded scores in the second quarter, including a crazy 41-yard touchdown reception from Daniel Spencer on a third-down conversion which put Houston in front. An end-of-the-half field goal by Justin Sorensen got BYU within 38–34 at a half that was clocked in at 1 hour, 59 minutes.
As good as the offenses were in the first half, the defenses regained some confidence, including Mathews tackling Hill in the end zone for a safety and a red zone stand for BYU that forced a Houston missed field goal. But after Cody Hoffman caught his record-tying 30th career touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to take a 41–40 lead, Houston drove down the field, as O’Korn hooked up with Deontay Greenberry for the go-ahead score with five minutes to play.
Hill then took the team 48 yards in just three plays, finding Ridley on an 11-yard back shoulder throw for the winning score. Hoffman said the team is in high spirits after the win.
“To come into a tough atmosphere like this and play a great undefeated team, we knew it was going to be a tough one,” he said. “We’re on cloud nine right now.”
Fua intercepted O’Korn on the next play, sealing the game for BYU.
The BYU Cougars will bring their high octane offense back to Provo to take on Boise State on Friday.