In a game that many expected BYU to win comfortably, the Cougars from Provo just couldn't deliver on those high expectations. That didn't prevent BYU from coming away with the 33-25 win at least.
Racing out to a 23-0 lead to start the game, it looked like BYU was going to run Houston off the field, but that didn't end up being the case. Turns out, BYU needed to fight until the very end to ensure their victory.
BYU's first drive of the game started slow with Taysom Hill missing on a few throws he probably should have completed, and eventually the Cougars were forced to punt. Arellano's punt was downed at the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Zac Stout burst through the line untouched and tackled Houston running back Ryan Jackson in the end zone for a safety.
That proved to be a spark for the BYU offense, as it drove 64 yards for its first score of the game. On 3rd down, Hill hit Jordan Leslie on a short screen pass that he turned into a 35-yard gainer to the Houston 24. Two plays later, after a face mask penalty on a Lasike run that put BYU in the 11-yard line, Jamaal Williams burst down the left side for his first touchdown of the 2014 season.
The following drive, the Cougars marched 70 yards in 8 plays. On the first play of that drive, Jamaal Williams burst through the line for a 16-yard run. Leslie had two straight receptions for 16 yards and 9 yards. The drive was capped when Taysom Hill jogged into the end zone on a perfectly executed zone read play from 5 yards out.
Houston followed with an impressive drive of its own. Starting at their own 13 after the kick off, the Cougars took advantage of big receptions from Daniel Spencer and Demarcus Ayers to get the BYU 24. After a 3rd down stop in which Houston gained 3 yards to get to the 21 it looked like the "Red Cougars" would finally get on the board. The BYU defense had other plans. After a fumbled hold by Houston, the BYU defense had time to get in front to block the kick. The blocked kick was recovered and returned to the BYU 13-yard line.
BYU used their next drive as an opportunity to add to its lead. A balanced mix of runs and small passes marched the Cougars down the field. Hill found four different receivers to get the BYU offense down to the 6-yard line. Taysom Hill found Mitch Mathews open running across the back of the end zone to put the Cougars up 23-0.
Later, BYU got the ball back with just over 3 minutes left, looking to take a 30-3 lead into half to put the game out of reach. However, on the first play of the drive Hill's pass was deflected at the line and intercepted by a Houston defensive lineman.
John O'Korn used the next play to hit Daniel Spencer just in front of the pylon to give Houston 1st and goal on the 1-yard line. O'Korn then hit Markeith Ambles on a fade in the end zone, but it was called back on a questionable pass interference call that pushed Houston back to the 16-yard line. BYU thought it had stopped Houston on 3rd down, but Manoa Pikula was called for a late hit on the quarterback and the drive continued. O'Korn then hit Deontay Greenberry in the end zone to bring Houston within 14.
BYU had a chance to get into field goal range at the end of the half but was turned away. Hill hit Mitchell Juergens on a deep pass to the Houston 27, but rather than stepping out of bounds with less than 10 seconds left, he fought for more yards and was stripped. Houston recovered the ball and ran it back to the BYU 45 with 3 seconds left in the half.
What should have been a "hail mary" that harmlessly fell to the ground at the end of the half ended up falling into the arms of Daniel Spencer as none of the BYU secondary or linebackers could get to him to knock the ball down. In a matter of 3 minutes BYU's lead shrunk from 20 to 8 going into halftime.
The second half saw both offenses sputter. Houston was only able to muster 14 yards of offense in the 3rd quarter. BYU ate up about 10 minutes of clock in the 3rd quarter as they all but abandoned the passing game, but the offense gained 85 yards and had only three points to show for it as penalties bogged the game down.
On its first drive of the 4th quarter BYU was able to find the end zone. After a 16-yard punt return by Devon Blackmon, the Cougars started on their own 44-yard line. BYU used its potent rushing attack led by dynamic duo Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams to move the chains. Hill had two runs of 6 and 15 yards respectively. Then it was Jamaal's turn, fighting his way to a BYU first down on two runs to get BYU to the Houston 25-yard line.
After a sack, Taysom scrambled 24 yards to the Houston 7. Two runs later, Jamaal Williams powered his way into the end zone, getting his second touchdown of the game. That play looked like it was going to be the clincher as BYU was up by 18 points with 12 minutes left and Houston hadn't done much the entire second half.
But O'Korn quickly carved up the BYU secondary as he moved Houston 68 yards in 7 plays in just under 3 minutes. The drive was capped with a throw to the corner of the end zone as Deontay Greenberry streaked around Robertson Daniel, fighting him off with his left hand as he secured the pass in his right, putting Houston within 11 points.
BYU's next drive ended in a turnover as a Hill pass to Juergens was ripped from his hands by Trevon Stewart. Houston was on the BYU 27 looking to make it a one score game. The defense held strong on three plays, forcing the Houston Cougars to kick a field goal keeping BYU up by 8. In the end, BYU was able to run out the clock and preserve the victory.
This closer than expected win leaves questions about this BYU Cougar team. Can this team actually go undefeated? Are they disciplined enough? I don't think they can continue to give up over 10 penalties a game and close to 100 yards and expect to keep winning. This season can still be a special season for BYU, but they will have to clean some things up if they want to reach a New Year's Day Bowl.
After this game, one thing remains clear: this is Taysom Hill's team. How he goes is how this football team goes. He's going to carry this offense on the ground and through the air if they have any chance of going undefeated. Luckily for them, Taysom Hill looks like he's up to the task.