Provo • Just in case there were doubts about Texas’ focus on BYU since Charlie Strong took over back in January, the Longhorns’ coach proved otherwise moments after a season-opening 37-7 win over North Texas on Saturday night in Austin.
"I told [his players] enjoy this one, be ready and come back to work tomorrow, and this is a team [BYU] that we are going to face that played well in their opener. And plus they are a team that embarrassed us last season with a quarterback [Taysom Hill] who ran the ball all over our defense. Looking forward to this matchup," Strong said in his postgame news conference.
BYU at Texas
P Royal-Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
Saturday, 5:30 p.m. MDT
TV » Fox Sports 1
The Cougars and Texas meet Saturday at 5:30 p.m. MDT at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, where the Longhorns and more than 100,000 Texas fans are expected to be loaded for bear after the Cougars crushed one of college football’s bluebloods 40-21 in Provo last season.
Attendance that Saturday was "just" 93,201.
Hill rushed for 259 yards in that shocker, part of BYU’s school-record 550 rushing yards. He only completed 9 of 26 passes, however, but seemed to have improved that part of his repertoire in Friday’s 35-10 win at UConn. With a deeper receiving corps and better protection than he had in 2013, Hill rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 308 yards and three TDs.
He completed 77.8 percent of his passes and posted a 177.1 pass-efficiency rating, a career high.
The win over UConn "is huge for us, and it gives us a lot of momentum going into Texas," Hill said Friday night. "Obviously, that environment will likely be a little bit different, playing there. But it is a challenge we are really excited for, and we are up for. … If we continue to clean up some penalties and play as cleanly as we did, we have a really good football team."
BYU ran some new offensive plays, so it doesn’t appear that offensive coordinator Robert Anae was holding much back. The Cougars will look different in Austin, though, because suspended players Jamaal Williams, Robertson Daniel, Jordan Johnson, Marques Johnson and Devon Blackmon are expected to be reinstated, coach Bronco Mendenhall said. The first four were projected starters and Blackmon is a highly touted receiver out of Riverside (Calif.) College who started his career at Oregon.
"When you now consider possibly adding another running back into that mix, when you talk about adding another receiver into that mix, and then cleaner play with the supporting cast up front, to what Taysom is capable of, I think you can see the potential [of this team]," Mendenhall said. "That’s what is exciting to me. Not necessarily the execution collectively today, but there was absolutely the flashes of what this team can look like, and we are much further ahead in the opener this season than a year ago."
Strong was asked if Texas coaches held anything back Saturday against the overmatched Mean Green.
"Well, we don’t ever hold anything back now," he said. "We’re not that good. We’re not a team that just walks out there like we got something stored away. There’s nothing stored away. You saw what we’re going to do."
BYU seemingly came out of the UConn game unscathed; Texas center Dom Espinosa, the team’s most experienced offensive lineman, left in the third quarter with a high ankle sprain and did not return. The redshirt freshman who replaced him allowed a sack and misfired a snap back to quarterback David Ash — the same QB who started against BYU last year but suffered a concussion from which he never quite recovered in 2013.
Offensively, the Longhorns were just average, as Ash threw for 190 yards and they picked up 353 total yards. Johnathan Gray ran for 82 yards and Malcolm Brown 65 and two TDs.
But defensively, they were dominant, holding North Texas to 94 total yards on 60 plays and eight first downs. The Mean Green’s only TD came on a bad snap inside UT’s end zone.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.