BYU’s Thursday night meeting with the Houston Cougars had all the makings of a trap game for the home team.
Bronco Mendenhall‘s squad was coming off a season-defining 41-7 victory over the Texas Longhorns. BYU then returned home for first game at LaVell Edwards Stadium this season. The team brought a national ranking with it for the first time in two seasons. The No. 25 BYU Cougars could have been overconfident and let the visiting Cougars sneak away with a victory. Instead, BYU overcame mistakes to win the contest 33-25, while showing exactly why they have the potential to earn a bid as the non-Power Five qualifier for one of the New Year’s bowl games.
It starts with BYU’s quarterback, Taysom Hill. The senior didn’t have his best game by any stretch of the imagination. Hill was intercepted twice by the visiting Cougars. But he still amassed 360 total yards and a pair of touchdowns. The signal caller now has 689 passing and 356 rushing yards through three games. Hill provides BYU with an advantage every week, because he’s the best player on the field during each contest.
BYU surrounded Hill with the caliber of weapons that can make the Cougars’ offense special. Hill has his choice between multiple massive targets, including 6-6 wide receiver Mitch Mathews and 6-6 tight end Devin Mahina. The offensive line is a good combination of talent and experience. Running back Jamaal Williams is a tough runner between the tackles who ran for 139 yards Thursday. And the Cougars even adjust their tempo to control what opposing defenses can and cannot do against their offense. It makes it very difficult to adjust to what BYU does when it has the ball.
On the defensive side of the football, BYU’s scheme is flexible and has plenty of talent at each level. Senior Alani Fua is the wild card. The 6-5 linebacker can line up as an edge rusher and beat opposing offensive tackles to get pressure on the quarterback, or he can line up in coverage over a wide receiver. The team’s secondary is also very physical, and the play-calling is always aggressive. This unit sets the tone for everything the team does each week.
Finally, BYU has gotten past a possible stumbling block against Houston. Mendenhall and his squad can now look to the future and a schedule that sets up nicely in the coming weeks. The Houston contest was the first of three straight home games. The Virginia Cavaliers and Utah State Aggies are next on the docket. If BYU can avoid losses at UCF on Oct. 9 and Boise State Oct. 24, the Cougars will likely face the Pac-12 Conference’s Cal Golden Bears with perfect season on the line during the last week of the regular season.
The talent is finally in place for BYU to make the run that’s been expected of it since Mendenhall took over the program.