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BYU Faces a Struggling O’Korn

10 September 2014 Brett Richins
BYU opens its home schedule Sept. 11 against the Houston Cougars of the AAC.

No. 25 BYU opens its home schedule Sept. 11 against the Houston Cougars from the AAC.

Houston quarterback John O’Korn was a mere babe when he nearly led his team to victory against BYU last season at Reliant Stadium.

The true freshman showed poise beyond his years, coming up just short in a wild, 47-46 decision deep in the heart of Texas.

O’Korn completed 29 of his 45 pass attempts for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He effectively used his feet to avoid the rush, to extend plays and find the open man, often giving the injury-plagued BYU secondary fits.

Luckily for the Cougars in blue, it was their star quarterback Taysom Hill who delivered the last-minute heroics however, hitting wide receiver Skyler Ridley for a game-winning touchdown with 1:08 to play. Linebacker Alani Fua then sealed the deal by picking off O’Korn on the ensuing drive. The three picks the freshman threw that day were the only real chinks in his armor.

Fast forward to Thursday night, as BYU prepares to welcome O’Korn and the Houston Cougars for their first ever visit to Provo and LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Bronco Mendenhall’s team has had just two practices and a walk through in its preparation for a second show down with O’Korn.

The good news for the head coach is that he has a much more talented, deep and healthy group of defensive backs this time around. The bad news is that history has shown that O’Korn and his talented receivers have the potential to challenge that secondary at a level they have not experienced thus far in 2014.

Wide receivers Deontay Greenberry and Daniel Spencer are as good as any duo BYU will see this year. The two combined for 1,970 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in 2013. Joining them are seven other receivers who caught at least one TD last season.

However, its important to point out that not every game last year resulted in Houston rolling up 435 yards passing like it did against BYU.

During a three-game stretch against UCF, Louisville and Cincinnati late in the season, O’Korn was held to an average of 199 passing yards and completed just 48 percent of his passes. In a loss to Vanderbilt in the BBVA Compass Bowl, he completed 20 of 47 throws for 238 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

O’Korn’s struggles at the end of the 2013 have continued into the start of this season, as Houston was dominated 27-7 by UT-San Antonio during its home opener while celebrating the opening of a brand new stadium. Again, O’Korn failed to complete even 50 percent of his passes, going 21 of 43 for 204 yards and tossing four interceptions. He was eventually replaced by back up Billy Cosh late in the game.

“There are things we’ve still got to work on, and things that he needs to work on,” said Houston head coach Tony Devine earlier this week regarding his offense and starting quarterback.

That statement came after O’Korn completed 58 percent of his passes (14 of 24) for 200 yards in three quarters of action as Houston got back on the winning track with 47-0 win against Grambling State, one of the worst FCS programs in the country.

The big question on Thursday is which version of John O’Korn will show up. Can he recapture the form he displayed in this contest last season? If not, a surging BYU may be poised to make the whipping Houston suffered two weeks ago on its home field against UTSA look like a hard fought battle.

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