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Thursday, September 28, 2023


UH narrowly loses to BYU in thriller

Junior receiver Daniel Spencer scored a touchdown and recorded 186 yards in the loss. |  Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Junior receiver Daniel Spencer scored a touchdown and recorded 186 yards in the loss. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Despite the surrounding hoopla that was embedded into Homecoming Week, the highly anticipated football game lived up to its national television platform.

The announcement of the Homecoming king and queen and the recognition of former UH cornerback D.J. Hayden and legendary basketball coach Guy V. Lewis did not overshadow a monumental finish as UH came up just short 47-46 to BYU on Saturday at Reliant Stadium.

Fans from both teams got what they expected, but someone had to lose. For UH fans, their team was the one that drew the short end of the stick.

“I told them this is exactly how the game was going to be, and the second half was no different. There are no moral victories,” said head coach Tony Levine.  “A loss is a loss. I give BYU credit. They made enough plays to win the football game … That’s a tough locker room right now.”

The game was decided on UH’s final possession when freshman quarterback John O’ Korn’s pass was intercepted on the first play of the final drive. After a first down, BYU was able to take a knee and secure a wild victory that took more than four hours.

BYU’s sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill — who amassed 545 total yards — found senior receiver Cody Hoffman for an 11-yard touchdown strike in the far left corner of the end zone to take the lead for good with 1:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.

On a previous drive, O’Korn found sophomore receiver Deontay Greenberry for a 10-yard touchdown with 5:20 remaining in the fourth quarter to take a 47-41.

Junior linebacker Derrick Mathews had one of his best games. He had 13 tackles, which included three sacks, an interception and a safety.

“(The interception) kind of surprised me. I was in a perfect position and I just took advantage of it. We made adjustments, calmed down and played how we were supposed to play,” Mathews said.

UH was outmatched in the stat sheet in the first half, as it accumulated only 245 yards of offense compared to BYU’s 456 but still led 38-34.

O’ Korn struggled in the beginning on his way to throwing 363 yards and three touchdowns.

“Did (O’Korn) play perfect? No. I’ve said it every week he’s never going to, but he’ll learn from his mistakes, and I’ve seen improvement from that young man every week,” Levine said.

Not only was he intercepted on his final pass attempt, but also on his first pass attempt. His interception on the first play from scrimmage enabled BYU to take advantage and score a 15-yard rushing touchdown by sophomore running back Jamaal Williams to put BYU with just a minute erased from the game.

High-octane offenses

Down 17-7, UH’s freshman quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was able to find senior receiver Xavier Maxwell for a 69-yard touchdown to cut the lead to three. Maxwell won a jump ball against his defender and walked in for the easy score.

On BYU’s ensuing possession, UH took its first lead of the game when Mathews intercepted a pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown, which  gave his team a 21-17 lead with 5:57 remaining in the first quarter.

Then it turned into a back-and-forth game, as both offenses were hitting on all cylinders.

Hill fired an 18-yard strike to junior receiver Ross Apo in the far left corner of the end zone to go up 24-21.

After a UH field goal, O’ Korn was able to throw his first touchdown pass of the afternoon with a six-yard, leaping touchdown to Greenberry to take a 31-24 lead.

After BYU scored on a one-yard touchdown rush, the UH offense kept its motor running when O’ Korn found junior receiver Daniel Spencer, who  cut across the field after nearly falling and followed his blocks on his way to a 41-yard touchdown.

Senior cornerback Thomas Bates picked off two passes: one in BYU’s end zone that prevented a touchdown and the other in the third quarter.

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