SALT LAKE CITY — Dax Milne caught nine passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns, the third time in four games the junior wide receiver has eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark.
None were bigger, perhaps, than his final touch.
Milne’s third touchdown, an 18-yarder from roommate Zach Wilson with 3:05 left in the fourth quarter, helped No. 14 BYU stave 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 ran for a team-high 40 yards on nine rushes, as well. 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 its top two nose tackles in Khyiris Tonga (illness) and Lorenzo Fauatea (season-ending leg injury), Houston piled up 438 yards of offense — including 310 yards and two touchdowns through the air from Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune.
“I feel like the statement that we made was that we’re a big-time team,” Wilson said. “Average teams are inconsistent, and can’t finish games off. But there wasn’t a moment of that tonight. Every single play, every drive, we knew we could execute on the next drive. The guys had the same mentality, even when adversity hit.
“I’m so proud of these guys for battling back.”
Wilson, whose 400 yards is a career high, has thrown at least two touchdown passes in five-straight games — matching BYU’s longest such streak since Christian Stewart in 2014, according to ESPN stats and information. He’s also engineered an offense to score 40 points or more in four of the Cougars’ first five games — a feat that hasn’t been seen in Provo since 2001.
Beyond Stewart, he’s drawing comparisons to BYU quarterbacks of yore — the swashbuckling attitude of Steve Young, the off-field charisma of Jim McMahon 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, perhaps, is the comparison he’d most appreciate. Because it’s about winning, and so is Wilson.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson runs for the touchdown in the first quarter of BYU’s win over Houston at TDECU Stadium in Houston, Texas, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. (Photo: Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)
He didn’t need long to find his favorite target, either — just one play, 19 seconds and 78 yards before putting 7 points on the board through Milne. The former Bingham High standout brushed off a defender, caught Wilson’s career-long completion on the near sideline behind him, and cruised untouched into the end zone for the 7-3 lead.
“That dude’s 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’ve always known he was going to be a big-time player for us.”
If it looked like a play the two have practiced over and over, on the playground or the practice field, perhaps it’s because they did since growing up in the same southern corner of the Salt Lake Valley.
There’s more to come, though.
“Just like it’s grown thus 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 for 128 yards, then dived for a 4-yard run that set up Katoa’s off-tackle, goal-line plunge for a 14-3 lead that BYU took out of the opening quarter. Gunner Romney was hampered, then left the game entirely with a hamstring injury after making just one catch, so Wilson had to rely on his No. 1 guy in a lot of situations.
“Those guys have known each other since they were kids,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “I think they’re 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, completing 12-of-13 passes – including eight in a row on one drive — for back-to-back touchdown strikes that put Houston back up, 17-14, with 4:42 to go in the half.
After trailing by 11 early, Houston out-paced the visiting Cougars, 323-233, in the first half to roll up a 20-14 lead at the break. Tune completed 15-of-18 passes for 234 yards and two scores before halftime for the host Cougars.
He capped a 16-play, 98-yard drive over 6:48 with a 5-yard rushing touchdown. Even as the 2-point conversion pass was intercepted by George Udo, the damage was done — not just in a 26-14 lead, but having struck nearly half the third quarter off the clock.
Wilson capped a five-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown to Milne with 53 seconds left. On the next touch, Sitake gambled with an onside kick — and Lone Peak product Talmage Gunther made a wide-open recovery to secure another drive for the offense.
The visiting Cougars punted on that drive, but Houston gave the ball back with a shank and a 23-yard field, leading to Wilson’s 8-yard shovel pass to Masen Wake (and Allgeier’s 2-point conversion) to retake the lead, 29-26, with 10 minutes to go.
The Cougars never trailed again, scoring the game’s final 29 points with Milne’s third touchdown and Allgeier’s 18-yard romp into the end zone with just under two minutes to go.
“That one felt great,” Milne said. “I think Houston thought we were going to play it safe, run the ball and try for a field goal. So when I heard the play call, I got really excited; I knew it was a touchdown play, and I just had to do my job. I’m just super happy the line and Zach did their job, and we could put the nail in the coffin.”
9:53 — HOU: Witherspoon 27 field goal
9:34 — BYU: Dax Milne, 78 pass from Zach Wilson (Oldroyd kick)
4:42 — BYU: Lopini Katoa 1 run (Oldroyd kick)
9:01 — HOU: Christian Trahan, 20 pass from Clayton Tune (Witherspoon kick)
4:42 — HOU: Nathaniel Dell, 5 pass from Tune (Witherspoon kick)
0:00 — HOU: Witherspoon 49 field goal
Halftime — Houston 20, BYU 14
3:05 — HOU: Tune 5 run (pass failed)
0:56 — BYU: Milne, 2-yard pass from Wilson (Oldroyd kick)
10:35 — BYU: Masen Wake, 8 shovel-pass from Wilson (Allgeier pass)
03:06 — BYU: Milne, 18 pass from Wilson (Oldroyd kick)
01:40 — BYU: Tyler Allgeier, 14 run (Oldroyd kick)
Final — BYU 43, Houston 26