HOUSTON (AP) — Undefeated Houston is about to face its toughest stretch of the season.
Houston has won five straight to open the season for the second time in three years. But the five opponents are a combined 10-19 this season, with only Rice (4-2) and Southern (3-3) posting .500 or better records.
After BYU this Saturday, Houston will go on the road for three of its next four games: Visits to Rutgers, Central Florida and Louisville are sandwiched around a home game against South Florida.
Despite the difficult upcoming schedule, Houston coach Tony Levine said his players won’t look ahead and are focused on BYU.
“The things that have gotten us to this point in terms of winning our first five games is what we have to continue to do: take care of the football on offense, creating turnovers on defense and we’ve got to tackle,” Levine said. “They’re going to be bigger and more physical (than) guys we’ve been tackling. Those are the things we have to do though, we have to cut down on penalties, put a game plan together and execute on all three sides of the ball.”
BYU has won three in a row and Houston has already matched its win total from last year’s disappointing season. Five things to know about the BYU-Houston game:
BYU CAN RUN: BYU is 13th in the nation in rushing offense led by quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams. Both rank in the top 20 nationally in yards rushing a game. BYU averages 263 yards rushing a game, and has rushed for at least 150 yards in every game this season. They’ve had two games with more than 300 yards rushing this season — 309 yards against Middle Tennessee State and 550 yards against Texas.
TURNOVER TIME: Under first-year defensive coordinator David Gibbs, Houston has forced 18 turnovers this season, including 10 fumbles. Houston leads the nation with a plus-14 turnover margin. Leading the charge on defense is Trevon Stewart, who has three fumble recoveries, while Thomas Bates and Efrem Oliphant each have two.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT BYU ‘D’: BYU has held opponents to less than 21 points in 12 straight games dating to last season. BYU’s defense can also score, having put points on the board in each of the last three games, with a safety against Middle Tennessee State and interceptions returned for touchdowns against Utah State and Georgia Tech. Senior Kyle Van Noy leads the defense with 26 career sacks, including four this season. He needs eight more to break the BYU career sack record of 33. Van Noy also has 10 tackles for losses this season. The BYU defense is in the top half of the nation in almost every statistical category, allowing 346.5 yards per game and just more than 17 points per game.
HOUSTON’S OFFENSE: Freshman John O’Korn is the starter at quarterback after junior David Piland’s career ended because of concussions earlier this season. O’Korn has responded by throwing for 1,131 yards and 11 touchdowns, while completing more than 59 percent of his passes and throwing just one interception. O’Korn’s favorite target is Deontay Greenberry, who has 39 catches for more than 600 yards with three touchdowns. Daniel Spencer has four touchdown catches. A running game that is averaging almost 189 yards a game has helped Houston score almost 40 points a game.
BYU CAN AIR IT OUT, TOO: Hill already has 950 yards rushing in his career and trails Steve Young by 104 yards for third in BYU career rushing among quarterbacks. Hill can also throw, passing for 1,263 yards and five touchdowns through the first six games. BYU’s passing offense averages more than 210 yards a game. Cody Hoffman, with 18 receptions for 311 yards and a touchdown this season, needs one reception, 227 yards and two touchdown catches to become the school career leader in each of those categories.
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