HOUSTON (AP) — During a four-hour marathon the Houston Cougars had responded time and again. Behind freshman John O'Korn, Houston went toe-to-toe with BYU for four quarters. Needing one more drive, O'Korn buckled, throwing an interception to Alani Fua with a minute left as Houston came up short in 47-46 loss, its first of the season.
There were positives, including a defensive response and the play of his young quarterback, but head coach Tony Levine was clear that the loss trumped all else.
"There are no moral victories," Levine said. "A loss is a loss. We knew it would be a great game going into it. Two great football teams going toe-to-toe.
"They made enough plays to win the football game," Levine continued. "That's a tough locker room right now."
O'Korn threw the interception that ended any hope of a Houston comeback. However, his play on the day made him one of Houston's stars on Saturday. The freshman threw three touchdown passes while compiling 363 yards on 29-of-45 passing. His performance was big on a day of big plays by the hometown Cougars.
Levine remained positive when it came to his quarterback.
"I think our fans and even coaches forget he is an 18-year-old true freshman," Levine said. "I had four other coaches come up to me after the game and say, 'Wow, that quarterback is special.'"
The teams combined for 1,164 yards with only one drive longer than three minutes. Houston (5-1) scored via the big play while six of BYU's (5-2) eight scoring drives went for 70 yards or longer.
The offensive explosion of the first half made way for a defensive battle as the teams combined for just nine points in the second half.
Derrick Mathews notched back-to-back sacks, including a safety for the only points of the third quarter to give Houston a 40-34 lead. It was the first safety by Houston since 1993.
Hill rekindled his first half rhythm hitting Cody Hoffman for a 25-yard touchdown pass to give BYU a 41-40 lead. Hoffman's touchdown was the 30th of his career, tying him for the school record.
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