Even while giving up 483 total yards, Mendenhall's defense made its share of critical plays. For Houston's offense, the game began and ended with interceptions by BYU linebackers Spencer Hadley and Alani Fua. In between, the defense was responsible for allowing 30 of Houston's 46 points (the offense and special teams surrendered two touchdowns and a safety) but also resisted at some key moments.
"We hung in there long enough to make up for our mistakes," Mendenhall said, citing some blown assignments in the secondary, partly attributable to safety Craig Bills being unavailable following a concussion last week.
Facing a Houston offense that scored only 18 points vs. Memphis last week, BYU gave up touchdown passes of 69 and 41 yards, plus a 76-yard completion that ultimately did no damage.
"We gave up a few big plays, but we made a few big plays," said BYU safety Daniel Sorensen.
If not for BYU quarterback Taysom Hill's winning touchdown pass, BYU's defense would have been blamed for allowing Houston to take a 46-41 lead with 5:20 remaining. But the defense stopped a two-point conversion attempt, which became important.
BYU's Uani Unga made 13 tackles and Bronson Kaufusi, Robertson Daniel and Mike Hague each registered a sack. Hague's safety blitz resulted in a 15-yard loss, followed by a missed field-goal attempt that kept BYU ahead 41-40.
Houston, which became the first opponent in 13 games to score more than 21 points against BYU, regained the lead on its next possession. But after Hill's touchdown pass, BYU's defense did its part to create a satisfying ending.
Needing a field goal to win, Houston took over at its 25-yard line with 1:08 on the clock and two timeouts remaining. On the first play, Fua dropped deep into coverage and picked off Houston quarterback Mike O'Korn, preserving BYU's win.
Tough day for Cougars defense
BYU allowed season highs in yards and points Saturday:
Opponent Yards Points
Virginia 223 19
Texas 445 21
Utah 402 20
Middle Tennessee 212 10
Utah State 397 14
Georgia Tech 400 20
Houston 483 46