BOISE, Idaho — For BYU true freshman quarterback Zach Wilson, this is a big game.
When the Cougars visit Boise State Saturday (8:15 p.m., MDT, ESPN2) on the blue turf, it will mark Wilson’s first start on the road.
And Wilson will be facing a program that he was once committed to before signing with BYU last December.
“It will be cool to go against them because I know a lot of them,” Wilson said of the Broncos. “They’re a great program and a great school. It will be fascinating to go to a place that I was committed to but I don’t know if we approach it any differently, though.”
After scoring only two field goals last week in a 7-6 loss at home to Northern Illinois in Wilson's second career start, the offense is obviously looking for better production.
Since the end of last Saturday’s contest, coach Kalani Sitake has talked about wanting to see the offense “let it rip” and playing a more aggressive style. He’s expressed a desire to let Wilson play to his strengths, particularly with his arm.
“He played really hard. He made some big plays. But I think that he’s better when he can set his feet and throw and not have to run all over the place,” Sitake said of Wilson’s performance a week ago. “I appreciate him making great highlights and jumping over people and getting first downs. But we’re not going to do well putting him in that type of situation.
"If we want him to use his strengths to find success we need to let him set his feet and throw the ball because that’s what he can do. I’ve mentioned that he’s a gunslinger — let him sling the ball. It’s hard to do that when you’re running for your life most of the time. We need to find a way to get him settled in and use his strengths and get some consistent drives and points on the board.”
Wilson was sacked five times against Northern Illinois. Boise State is tied at No. 18 nationally in sacks with 24.
How does quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick view Sitake’s statements about being more aggressive?
“It involves every position group. It’s the physicality that we play with in the run game, it’s being more physical on the perimeter with how we run routes and how we block,” Roderick said. “It’s maybe the quarterbacks pushing the ball downfield more at times, not always playing it safe. I think he meant to be more aggressive in a lot of ways.”
“I think his look on that is he wants to let me play how I know how to play and the way he recruited me. That goes for the whole team,” Wilson said of Sitake’s comments. “He wants me to play to my strengths and play with what I know how to do best. I think that’s what he means by ‘let it rip.’ … Having a higher tempo offense and getting things rolling and playing fast is more of my style.”
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin recalled this week Wilson's recruitment out of Corner Canyon High. Wilson originally committed to the Broncos, then later decommitted.
“I liked the way he threw and ran and handled himself. That was the stuff that stood out when we had him," Harsin said. "He came up to a camp and did well. We got a chance to work with him and that was the point that we got a chance firsthand to be around him. We liked him … He was part of our recruiting process. We got to know him a little bit from that standpoint.”
What attracted Wilson to BSU?
“They’re known as an offensive school and they can throw the ball really well," he said." I think that’s what drew me into that program.”
Wilson has said that staying closer to home and academic opportunities made BYU attractive to him. The possibility of playing early in his career didn't hurt, either.
What kind of reaction does Wilson expect from the Boise State fans Saturday?
“I’m not sure what it will be like," he said. "Whatever it is, you kind of block it out and don’t pay attention to it anyway. You just ignore it.”9 comments on this story
Wilson said he's happy to be the starting quarterback at BYU.
“I can’t ask for anything more. I’m here with the opportunity to play as a freshman. It’s an opportunity I know a lot of people wish they could have. I’m so grateful for it every day. I’m grateful I can take advantage of it and I’m glad I get to see my family every day. I’m glad I get to hang out with these guys on the team and the coaches. I love it here.”
• • •
BYU (4-4) at Boise State (6-2)
- Saturday, 8:15 p.m. MDT Albertsons Stadium
- TV: ESPN2
- Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM