Senior quarterback Joe Southwick, 15-4 as a starter, suffered a fractured right ankle on the first play from scrimmage in Saturday night's 34-17 win over Nevada at Bronco Stadium, and won't play in Friday's rematch of last year's 7-6 BSU win over BYU in Idaho.
Backup quarterback Grant Hedrick, a junior who hasn't played an entire game since his final year of high school, 2009, was spectacular in relief, completing 18 of 21 passes for 150 yards and rushing eight times for 115 yards. He rallied Boise State from a 17-7 halftime deficit.
"I've been preparing for this for four years," he told the Idaho Statesman.
On the surface, it looks like a huge break for the Cougars, but Southwick didn't exactly tear up BYU last year and Hedrick appears to be more versatile and could cause trouble for a defense that just gave up 483 yards and a bunch of big plays to Houston.
Houston's yards were almost equally divided between the halves 245 in the first, 238 in the second but its points sure weren't. The homestanding Cougars took a 38-34 halftime lead, then put up just a touchdown (and a safety) in the second half, while missing two field goals.
"They got four giant plays in the first half," Mendenhall said. "Every one of them was an assignment mistake, or an execution mistake. … And then, man, I thought [the defense] played pretty well in the second half. I don't remember the first half very much, but the second half I know they didn't score very much."
BYU's secondary clearly struggled in the absence of junior safety Craig Bills, who practiced all week after suffering a concussion in the 38-20 win over Georgia Tech, but experienced "kind of a headache, which kind of came out of nowhere" in warm-ups, according to Mendenhall, and was not cleared to play. Skye PoVey, Blake Morgan and Mike Hague all got their chances to play where Bills normally does, and all three were burned at times.
But Hague made a huge 15-yard sack of Houston freshman quarterback John O'Korn on third-and-8 after UH had reached the BYU 4 on a 76-yard catch by Daniel Spencer, and the red-clad Cougars then missed a 40-yard field goal.
"Those three all of a sudden were thrown into the gauntlet, and got more than their fair share of seasoning," Mendenhall said.
After carrying the ball 14 times for 72 yards in the first half, sophomore Jamaal Williams had just three carries for 11 yards in the second half before leaving the game for good with what was reported to be a hip injury.
"I don't know [why Williams didn't play more in the second half]," Mendenhall said. "There was a lot going on. And I am not sure exactly what the substitutions patterns were, if he was a little bit dinged up, etc. So not sure on that."
Quarterback Taysom Hill could probably use an extra day of rest, too, after becoming the seventh quarterback in FBS history to pass for more than 400 yards (417) and rush for more than 100 (128) in a game. The sophomore really ran for 194 yards, but gave 66 of those back on eight sacks.
"We need to be more consistent offensively," Hill said. "We started out really well and then we kind of squandered in the second quarter and third quarter. We need to come out and play as we did in the first quarter for four quarters. … We need to put an entire game together offensively. We showed greatness throughout [stretches in] the game but we need to show that consistently."
Boise State at BYU
P Friday, 6 p.m.
TV • ESPN