Hill and the BYU offense wasted no time, connecting with Cody Hoffman on the first two plays, and then throwing a backwards pass to Jamaal Williams, who ran into the end zone and put the first points on the board. After the defense forced Houston to punt, the offense took over from their own 9-yard line, and started driving down the field, again. This time the offense stalled at the Houston 23-yard line, due in part to a botched shotgun snap, but Justin Sorensen put in a field goal to put BYU up 10-0.
That is when things started to heat up for the Cougars in Red. On the kickoff return, Demarcus Ayers took the ball 95 yards for a touchdown. BYU answered back with another sustained drive capped off by an 11-yard TD pass from Hill to Ross Apo.
The Apo score made it 17-7, and BYU was back in control. The Houston offense still hadn't moved the ball on the BYU defense, and Hill and co. had scored on every possession.
Houston, however, responded with a 69-yard TD strike from change-up quarterback Greg Ward Jr. to receiver Xavier Maxwell on the third play of the drive. The game officials decided to completely overlook a blatant push off by Maxwell to catch the ball.
The third play of BYU’s ensuing drive also resulted in a score, but it was also for Houston. Hill threw his first (and most costly) interception of the game, a pick-6 to Houston linebacker Derrick Matthews, who returned the ball 29 yards for the score. Just like that, Houston was up 21-17, even though their offense had hardly done a thing.
To his credit, however, Hill was not deterred by the interception, and marched BYU down the field for another touchdown strike to Apo to retake the lead, 24-21.
Then, BYU seemed poised to retake control of the game with Daniel Sorenson intercepting O’Korn and returned it 22 yards, putting the BYU offense in business at the Houston 23-yard line. Hill, however, returned the favor and threw another costly interception, this time in the end zone.
All that was just the first quarter.
The second quarter started with Houston and BYU trading punts. Houston then scored a field goal and a touchdown as BYU’s offense continued to stall. After the Blue Cougar defense forced a three-and-out, Hill and co. returned to form by driving 76 yards down field finishing with a 1-yard TD run by Jamaal Williams that tied the game at 31.
Although Houston was threatening at the BYU 29-yard line, it seemed that BYU had stopped them when Robertson Daniels sacked O’Korn for a 12-yard loss, setting up 3rd and 22 from the BYU 41. Under pressure, O'Korn managed to dump the ball to wide receiver Daniel Spencer who (after stumbling a bit, and apparently touching the ground with the hand carrying the ball), managed to juke his way into the end zone. Houston was back on top, 38-31.
With 1:31 left in the half, BYU did manage to drive down to the Houston 2-yard line, but failed to convert, and walked away with just a field goal making the halftime score 38-34.
After a wild first half with explosive offense, the third quarter was dominated by defense. The only points scored was a safety when Hill got sacked in the end zone, putting Houston up 40-34.
BYU started the fourth quarter by retaking the lead on a 97-yard drive, complete with a 25-yard Hill-to-Hoffman TD, caught despite pass interference. With the PAT, BYU was now up 41-40.
Prompted by BYU retaking the lead, the Houston came alive again. A 76-yard pass moved the ball all the way down to the BYU 3-yard line. A delay of game penalty, combined with a 15-yard sack by Mike Hague (despite a hold on Houston) pushed Houston back to the 23-yard line, where Leon Richie missed a 40-yard field goal attempt. The lead was preserved, for now.
Both offenses then stalled for a while with back and forth punts before Houston put together an 84-yard drive that finished with a TD pass from O’Korn to Deontay Greenberry. Trying to take a seven point lead, Houston attempted a 2-point conversion. It failed, which left the Houston lead at five, 46-41, with just over 5 minutes to play.
BYU moved the ball to mid-field before stalling, again, and punting with about three and a half minutes left. It seemed that BYU was headed home empty handed after a wild, back-and-forth game.
The BYU defense wouldn't let that happen without giving the offense one more shot. Kyle Van Noy and co. forced the three-and-out, however, and the Blue Cougar offense took the field with 1:50 left on the clock and good field position at the Houston 48. Hill first connected with Skyler Ridley for a 28-yard gain. A couple plays later, Hill found Ridley, again, with a beautiful back shoulder pass for the game-winning TD from 11 yards out. BYU also failed in its two-point conversion, so the lead was only one point, 47-46.
The drive only took 42 seconds. This meant that the Red Cougars had over a minute left, not to mention two time-outs, their big play ability, and only needed a field goal to win. Needless to say, many BYU faithful were still on the edge of their seats.
It had been a long game. At this point, it was hard to remember just how all this wild craziness began. Alani Fua provided a quick reminder. Just as Hadley did on the first drive of the game, Fua intercepted O'Korn on the first play of the drive. The third and final pick sealed the game for BYU.
Finally, BYU fans release a sigh of relief.
Despite Hill also throwing three interceptions, including two that cost BYU up to 14 points (one pick-6 and another in the end zone), Hill had an outstanding game and got the job done when the game was on the line. Hill finished 29 for 44, for 417 yards and 4 TDs, and added 128 yards rushing for 545 yards of total offense. Hill accounted for 80% for BYU’s 681 yards of offense.
Naturally, with the quarterback throwing the ball well, this was a big game for the receivers as well. Hoffman finished with 7 catches for 156 yards and a TD, breaking the school record for most career receptions and tying the school record for most touchdown receptions in a career. Ridley added 7 catches of his own, for 90 yards and the game winning touchdown. Mitch Matthews, Ross Apo, and JD Falslev each had 4 or more catches as well, and Apo had two TDs playing in his home state.
Williams had 83 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, mostly in the first half as he missed most of the second half with a hip pointer.
PLAYER-OF-THE-GAME: Taysom Hill: 545 yards of total offense; 29/44, 417 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs; 34 carries for 128 yards.
PLAY-OF-THE-GAME: Taysom Hill to Skyler Ridley in the corner of the end zone from 11 yards out, for the game winning score.
By Neal Rappleye