SALT LAKE CITY – Dax Milne caught nine passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns, the third time in four games the junior receiver has exceeded the reception mark of 100 yards.
No one was perhaps greater than his last touch.
Milne’s third touchdown, an 18-year-old from roommate Zach Wilson with 3:05 left in the fourth quarter, helped No. 14 BYU fend off Houston, 43-26, Friday night at TDECU Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Wilson completed 25-of-35 passes for 400 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for a team-high 40 yards on nine rushes. Tyler Allgeier ran for 25 yards and a touchdown, and Lopini Katoa added another score for the Cougars, who improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2008.
Facing a BYU defense lacking the top two nose grips of Khyiris Tonga (illness) and Lorenzo Fauatea (season-ending leg injury), Houston put up 438 yards offensive – including 310 yards and two touchdowns through the air from Cougar’s quarterback Clayton Tune.
“I feel like the statement we made was that we are a great team,” Wilson said. “Average teams are inconsistent and can’t finish games. But there was not a moment of that tonight. Every single game, every drive, we knew we could perform on the next drive. The guys had the same mentality, even when adversity ramte.
“I’m so proud of these guys for fighting back.”
Wilson, whose 400 yards is a career-high, has thrown at least two touchdown passes in five-straight games – matching BYU’s longest streak after Christian Stewart in 2014, according to ESPN statistics and information. He has also constructed an offense to score 40 points or more in four of the Cougars’ first five games – a feat not seen in Provo since 2001.
In addition to Stewart, he draws comparisons to BYU quarterbacks in the past – the magnificent stance of Steve Young, Jim McMahon’s off-field charisma and the leadership of Robbie Bosco, to name a few. But on Saturday night, he brought BYU to its best start since the days of Max Hall – and that is perhaps the comparison he would most appreciate. Because it’s about winning, and the same goes for Wilson.
He also did not need long to find his favorite goal – just one game, 19 seconds and 78 yards, before putting 7 points on the board through Milne. The former Bingham High standout brushed a defender, captured Wilson’s career long finish on the nearest sideline behind him and drove untouched into the final zone for the 7-3 lead.
“That guy is a playmaker,” Wilson said of Milne. “I love that guy. He’s one of my best friends, I’m so happy for him. … I believed in that guy since day one. I always knew he was going to be a big-time player for U.S.”
If it looked like a game the two have been practicing over and over on the playground or on the training field, it might be because they did since they grew up in the same southern corner of Salt Lake Valley.
However, there is more to come.
“Just as it has grown so far, I think it continues to get stronger and stronger,” Milne said. “It’s fun to be a part of.”
Wilson completed his first three passes at 128 yards, then dived into a 4-yard run that put Katoa’s off-tackle, goal-line jump to a 14-3 lead that BYU took out of the opening quarter. Gunner Romney was hampered and then left the game completely with a hamstring injury after only taking one catch, so Wilson had to rely on his No. 1 guy in many situations.
“These guys have known each other since they were kids,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “I think they’m just used to being around each other … You can see there’s a connection and rhythm they have with each other.”
Tune pulled out his cards in the second quarter and completed 12-of-13 passes – including eight in a row on a drive – to back-to-back touchdown strikes that set Houston up again, 17-14, with 4:42 left to go in half.
After an early 11, Houston outscored the visiting Cougars, 323-233, in the first half to roll a 20-14 lead at the break. Tune completed 15 of 18 passes for 234 yards and two goals before the break for host Cougars.
He demarcated a 16-play, 98-yard drive over 6:48 with a 5-yard rushing touchdown. Even when the 2-point conversion card was intercepted by George Udo, the damage was done – not only with a 26-14 lead, but after hitting almost half of the third quarter around the clock.
Wilson limited a five-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown to Milne with 53 seconds left. At the next touch, Sitake played with a kick on the spot – and the Lone Peak product Talmage Gunther made a wide-open recovery to secure another drive for the offense.
The visiting Cougars pointed to this drive, but Houston returned the ball with a shaft and a 23-yard field goal, leading to Wilson’s 8-yard shovel pass to Masen Wake (and Allgeier’s 2-point conversion) to take the lead again, 29- 26, with 10 minutes left.
The Cougars never finished again, scoring the game’s final 29 points with Milne’s third touchdown, and Allgeier’s 18 yard shot in the final zone with just under two minutes to go.
“One felt good,” Milne said. “I think Houston thought we should play it safe, run the ball and try a field goal. So when I heard the game called, I was really excited; I knew it was a touchdown game and I was just have to do my job. I’m just super happy with the line and Zach did their job and we could put the nail in the coffin. “
9:53 – HOLD: Witherspoon 27 field goals
9:34 – BYU: Dax Milne, 78 passes from Zach Wilson (Oldroyd kick)
4:42 – BYU: Lopini Katoa 1 race (Oldroyd kick)
9:01 – HOU: Christian Trahan, 20 passes from Clayton Tune (Witherspoon kick)
4:42 – HOLD: Nathaniel Dell, 5 passes from Tune (Witherspoon kick)
0:00 – HOLD: Witherspoon 49 field goals
Pauses – Houston 20, BYU 14
3:05 – HOLD: Tune 5 run (failed)
0:56 – BYU: Milne, 2 yard pass from Wilson (Oldroyd kick)
10:35 – BYU: Masen Wake, 8 shovel passes from Wilson (Allgeierpas)
03:06 – BYU: Milne, 18 passes from Wilson (Oldroyd kick)
01:40 – BYU: Tyler Allgeier, 14 races (Oldroyd kick)
Final – BYU 43, Houston 26
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