Even though the Cougars went into their first game of the season at far less than 100 percent, they were able to overcome some sloppy play and a ridiculous amount of penalties to outlast the Connecticut Huskies 35-10 on Friday night. Along the way, BYU proved to have plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball, even without the likes of Jamaal Williams, Jordan Johnson, Devon Blackmon, Nick Kurtz and Robertson Daniel. The absence of such important players left plenty of opportunities for lesser known guys to step up and that’s exactly what happened for the Cougars.
The Cougars got on the board on the opening drive of the season even though it was delayed by penalties. It took 5;04 off the clock, but Tayson Hill capped off 15-play, 75-yard drive with a seven-yard scamper into the end zone for the Cougars’ first touchdown on the season. One of the biggest plays on the drive came deep in UConn territory when Hill found Mitch Mathews on a perfect back-shoulder throw for 11 yards on third-and eight to keep the drive alive.
After Bronson Kaufusi recovered a fumble on the first play of the night for the Huskies’ offense, Hill and Mathews were at it again. It took just one play for the Cougars to take a 14-0 lead after Hill hit Mathews in stride for a 26-yard touchdown pass. BYU extended its lead behind a pair of big plays from Algernon Brown midday through the second quarter to give them a 21-point lead. After Mitchell Jeurgens took a Justin Wain back 24 yards to the Huskies 46, Brown went to work. He took a pass 25 yards down to just outside of the bluezone and then followed it un with a 14 yard rush down to the seven-yard line. Two plays later, the Cougars were back on the board as Hill connected with Adam Hine for a seven-yard score.
A fumble by Mathews led to the first score of the game for the Huskies only minutes later when running back Joshua Marriner took the ball in from one-yard out after a six-play, 52-yard drive.
BYU had a quick answer to regain the 21-point lead heading into halftime. This time, it was wide receiver Terenn Houk who made the big plays. On the five-play, 69-yard drive, Houk made a pair of receptions, including a 35-yard catch-and-run to ended with him tightroping the sideline and diving into the end zone for the fourth score of the half.
The second half wasn’t nearly as explosive for either offense as only 10 points got put on the board for both teams. UConn cut the BYU lead to 28-10 when Bobby Puyol hit a 35-yard field goal midday through the fourth quarter. The Cougars answered two possessions later when Hill scored his second touchdown on the ground, when he found the end zone from 26 yards out to cap off a 90-yard drive.
3. Michael Davis, defensive back
Davis stepped into the starting lineup with the losses of Jordan Johnson and Robertson Daniel and showed exactly why he was moved back to the defensive side of the ball in fall camp. Davis used his quickness to make big plays on the outside most of the night. Along the way, he led the team with seven solo tackles.
2. Bronson Kaufusi, linebacker
Kaufusi had a smooth transition from defensive end to linebacker (at least for one night) against the Huskies. He recorded a pair of sacks and also recovered a fumble for a BYU defense that only gave up just 10 points.
1. Tayson Hill, quarterback
There was no question who earned the first star in the first contest for the Cougars. One of the biggest questions facing the Cougars was whether Hill could improve his accuracy in the passing game, and against the Huskies, that’s exactly what he did. He completed 28-of-36 passes (77.8 percent), for 308 yards and three touchdowns. He was also dominated with his legs with 97 yards and two scores on 12 carries.
Analyzing the stats
While Hill has had two games with more passing yards than Friday, his 77.8 completion percentage tied for the highest of his BYU career. His five touchdowns were also a career-best.
Four of the five BYU scoring drives took a combined 4:32 of game time, including drives of :06, 1:21, 1;30 and 1:35. Thanks to effectiveness of the BYU offense, UConn owned the time of possession by more than seven minutes.
Even though the Cougars rushed for more than 200 yards, it was the first time since a November, 2013 loss to Wisconsin that a BYU player didn’t register at least 100 yards on the ground.
Although Connecticut has fielded a team since 1979, the matchup against the Huskies was the first ever meeting on the gridiron between the two schools.
The win over the Huskies gives BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall a 7-3 record in opening games during his 10 year at the helm for BYU.
The Cougars will face a much tougher test when they travel to Austin, Texas, to take on Charlie Strong and his Longhorns. The Texas roster has been depleted by suspensions and dismissals, but they still have as much talent as any team the Cougars will face in 2014. The Longhorns will also have a huge chip on their shoulder after BYU did a number on them in their 2013 matchup when the Cougars put up a school-record 550 yards rushing in a 40-21 victory.
Strong is in his first season with Texas after he replaced Mack Brown in the offseason. It will be his second game for the Longhorns who face North Texas in their first contest.