Provo • They converted on just one third-down opportunity, scored just one offensive touchdown and picked up just 76 yards and five first downs in the second half, sputtering as much as they did in their season opener against that other team from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
BYU's offense pretty much took the final 30 minutes of Saturday's rematch against the ACC's Georgia Tech off, but by that time, it really didn't matter.
After all, the Cougars' stout and opportunistic defense was there again, as usual.
All told, it was more than enough to rout the Yellow Jackets 38-20 for the second straight year, this time in front of 60,320 on a picture-perfect autumn night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"We are gaining momentum. We are playing better and better each week. … I am encouraged. I like our team," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said after the Cougars improved to 4-2 and won their third straight game.
Mendenhall also lamented, for just a moment, that the Cougars' subs gave up a touchdown with 53 seconds remaining "when 38-13 would have looked pretty good."
He could afford to smile and wish in the postgame interview room, but there were some anxious moments in the second half after the Cougar offense slept through the third quarter and its first possession of the fourth quarter, posting just 12 total yards in that stretch.
That's when Alani Fua showed up.
The 6-foot-5 junior from Northridge, Calif., snagged a first-down pass from Tech's Vad Lee and raced 51 yards to the end zone with 11 minutes remaining and the suddenly punchless Cougars clinging to a 24-13 lead.
Just like that, it was game over.
"I thought that was a huge play to have a little breathing room," Mendenhall said.
Tech (3-3) changed quarterbacks and was driving after that, but Robertson Daniel caused a fumble that Spencer Hadley his five-game suspension having been reduced to three games before the game recovered.
The Cougars then rediscovered their moxie on offense, and drove 69 yards on eight plays to salt it away, freshman running back Algernon Brown doing the honors from 15 yards out after Jamaal Williams' 34-yard run into Tech territory.
"I like the direction we are going," Mendenhall said.
The coach was especially proud of the way quarterback Taysom Hill played, throwing the ball effectively for the third straight game.
Hill completed his first eight passes, including a sparkling 45-yard touchdown pass to Cody Hoffman on BYU's second possession, Hoffman's first TD grab of the year. Hill finished 19 of 27 for 244 yards and that TD, while also rushing 15 times for 65 yards. In the first half, Hill was 16 of 20 for 226 yards as Robert Anae's offense looked unstoppable, at times. Things changed in the third as Tech adjusted its defense, but the damage was done.
"We tried to do a little too much [on offense in the third quarter]," Hill said.
After holding Tech to 167 yards total last year in that 41-17 win in Atlanta, BYU's defense wasn't nearly as dominant in Provo, allowing 400 offensive yards, 242 on the ground and 158 in the air. After going 0 for 10 on third down last year, Tech was 10 for 20 this time and picked up several third-and-longs, including 17- and 14-yard holes.
The Jackets surprised the Cougar defense, lineman Bronson Kaufusi said, by throwing the ball so much.
"It took me a while as a defensive play-caller to realize what they could do on third down," Mendenhall said.
Tech coach Paul Johnson was understandably disappointed in not being able to return the favor after last year's beatdown.
"We dug ourselves into such a hole and against a team that's traditionally pretty good defensively," he said. "You know, you can [only] put yourself so far behind the eight-ball."
Storylines BYU 38, Georgia Tech 20
R In Short • BYU's offense produces next to nothing in the second half after an explosion of yards and points in the first, but the Cougars hold on to down Georgia Tech.
Key Moment • Alani Fua's 51-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter reverses the game's momentum and gives BYU some breathing room.
Key Stat • The Cougars rack up 345 yards in the first half and only 76 yards in the second half.