HOUSTON (AP) — BYU coach Kalani Sitake is urging his 14th-ranked team to remain focused after its 4-0 start.
BYU got a scare from UTSA last week before holding on for a 27-20 win. Now the schedule gets tougher as the team heads to Houston (1-0) on Friday night looking to keep its record perfect.
“We saw it with the UTSA game,” Sitake said. “They had a mission in mind and wanted to see how they matched up. We’ve been in that position as well when we’ve faced teams that were ranked and we’ve been the underdog. For this position, it’s a matter of that we can’t stop hunting. We still have a lot of things to prove and things we can do better.”
BYU has turned heads already this season, scoring at least 45 points in each of its first three contests and winning those by at least 31 points before last week’s close call against UTSA.
“I don’t care anything about hype,” Sitake said. “I just want us to play our best. It doesn’t really matter about the rankings and neither the criticism or the praise, it doesn’t matter. Those are all distractions.”
Houston can score a lot of points like BYU, defeating Tulane 49-31 in its first game of the season. However, the high-powered offenses aren’t the only thing the teams have in common as their defenses are among the best in the nation.
Houston’s defense allowed 211 yards to Tulane, while BYU’s defense is allowing 250.5 yards per game, fourth nationally.
“I think Houston presents such a great opportunity for us to show everybody that we are capable of accomplishing great things this year,” BYU defensive back Troy Warner said. “Even though we had a little hiccup this past game, we are able to clean those things up and execute those things at a high level.”
After having its opener delayed for weeks because of coronavirus cancellations and postponements, Houston came out sloppy in its opener last week. Houston committed five turnovers and Tulane turned the first two into touchdowns with a 64-yard interception return and a fumble recovery in the end zone.
“The biggest thing is that the bad was really bad,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. “The turnovers were bad. Sometimes turnovers don’t hurt you. Sometimes turnovers kill you. When you give them 14 points off two turnovers, that’s obviously not good.”
BYU’S HIGH-POWERED OFFENSE
BYU enters ranked fifth nationally, averaging 556.8 yards per game. The team is led by quarterback Zach Wilson, who has thrown for 1,241 yards and eight touchdowns and leads the nation with an 81.2% completion rate pasing. Wilson has also rushed for six touchdowns. Receivers Gunner Romney and Dax Milne have combined for 44 catches for 819 yards and three touchdowns this season.
“I think everything is clicking right now,” Romney said. “Our offense is super experienced, so most of the guys that are playing and contributing have a couple years under their belt. I think that experience and helping the younger guys fit into the system and knowing what is expected has really helped us all mesh together and play really well.”
HOUSTON’S IMPROVED DEFENSE
Houston finished 4-8 last season, but Holgorsen has already seen some improvements on defense in the first game. Holgorsen said his team missed fewer than 10 tackles and Payton Turner had 4½ tackles for losses and two sacks against Tulane. The team finished with 12½ tackles for losses and six sacks against the Green Wave in addition to holding Tulane’s rushing attack to 56 yards.
“I’m proud to say we’re No. 1 in the nation right now,” Holgorsen said with a laugh. “There’s no question we’re better, and we all knew we would be better. It starts up front, and we have good depth up front.”
IT ALL STARTS UP FRONT
BYU’s offensive line has allowed two sacks this season, with one of them coming on an intentional grounding. The offensive line has a combined 135 starts. Brady Christensen leads the unit with 30 starts and James Epsey has 28. BYU’s running game has benefited from the experienced line, with Tyler Allgeier rushing for 391 yards in four games, including 124 against the Roadrunners.
“I think the experience is obviously huge, we have a lot of experienced guys,” Christensen said. “The comfortability of being in this offense since we have had this offense for a few years now.”