It was a tale of two halves Saturday night in Austin, Tex.
Fortunately for Texas, and unfortunately for BYU, the Longhorns finished with a one-point edge in their better half than the Cougars did in their better half.
Halftime adjustments were the difference on both sides of the ball for Texas in its 17-16 win. After looking confused and unsure for the first 30 minutes, the Longhorns figured things out in the second half to outscore BYU 14-3 in the second half.
Over the final two quarters, and after trailing 13-3 at the half, the Longhorns totaled 204 total yards after the intermission and scored on two of their first four second-half drives. Texas had 123 rushing yards over the final two quarters after struggling for only 46 rushing yards before the half.
The Cougars, on the other hand, suddenly looked lost on offense and went three-and-out on three of its five second-half drives and turned the ball over to end their final possession. The Cougars had only four second-half first downs, all of which came on their sole second-half scoring drive (a 32-yard field goal by Justin Sorensen) and had only 67 total yards after the break.
The Longhorns used a three-quarterback rotation, and the final two — Case McCoy and David Ash — seemed to be the more effective combination. McCoy went 7-of-8 passing, and had two huge completions to Jaxon Shipley in Texas' game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Ash rushed for 36 yards and threw for another 35.
The key to BYU jumping out to a 13-0 lead, other than forcing two early Texas turnovers, was the Cougars’ offensive efficiency in the first half. The Cougars, with Jake Heaps completing 14 of 24, had 153 passing yards in the first half and 170 total yards. They also had 10 first downs and won the time-of-possession battle 16:12 to 13:48.
Sorensen was perfect on both of his first-half field goal tries and the Cougars were whistled for only one penalty. The Cougars also converted on three third-down attempts and converted the only time they went for it on fourth down.
The Cougars' defense also played a big part, if not bigger, in BYU’s first-half dominance and had Texas on its heels and Longhorns fans in disbelief for most of the first 30 minutes. The Longhorns went three-and-out on five of their first six possessions. Texas did not gain a first down until late in the first quarter and finished with only three first downs at the intermission. Texas had only 88 total yards and 46 rushing yards at the half.
Of course, the two BYU interceptions in the first half were two of the biggest game-changing plays early and set the tone for most of the first 30 minutes. Overall, Texas was a little out of sync before the break, as its five penalties for 35 yards illustrated.
Without the one BYU first-half mistake, a miscommunication between Heaps and running back JJ Di Luigi, which resulted in a Texas interception deep in BYU territory, the Longhorns likely would have been shutout in the first half.
But the Longhorns turned the momentum their way early in the second half when they forced BYU to a three-and-out right out of the gate, and then went 62 yards on seven plays to make it a 13-10 game. All 62 yards on that drive came on the ground.
Texas finished with eight penalties for 46 yards. The Cougars played another fairly clean game, but all three of their penalties were costly. A personal foul call on a punt return in the second quarter cost them field position inside Texas territory, and a false start and delay of game on their final possession put them in a third-and-long situation deep in Longhorns territory.