BOISE — Winning big can be so much darn fun.
It’s a reminder that BYU’s football team soaked in Friday after scoring 35 straight points in the second half to blast Western Michigan 49-18 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Albertsons Stadium.
It was just what the doctor ordered for BYU’s football program, exploding for touchdowns in capping a 7-6 season where most the time yards and points were difficult to deliver.
In this one, rookie Zach Wilson pitched a perfect game, completing a school-record 18 straight pass attempts for 317 yards and four touchdowns. It was Jim McMahon and Ty Detmer kind of stuff.
Soon after the trophy ceremony, BYU coach Kalani Sitake stood in the south end zone with athletic director Tom Holmoe. They talked for a few minutes as motor drives on cameras hummed on, capturing the moment for all time.
Seeing that frozen moment, one couldn’t help think that this one couldn’t turn out any more pleasing for the program that so desperately needed to take a step forward.
A loss would have been a disaster and a second-straight losing season.
This one was nothing but fun in the second half. Wilson was slinging darts to receivers who hardly broke stride. If he were any more accurate, NASA engineers would be calling.
That stretch of 35 straight points was the most explosive offensive football BYU has shown since Taysom Hill ran over and through Texas. We can’t count Wagner and Savannah State.
The bludgeoning of Western Michigan held tremendous meaning for this BYU squad.
It was perfection for the Great New Hope, Wilson.
There was also an omnipresent act by senior linebacker Sione Takitaki, who had 19 tackles, one short of the bowl record in Boise.
It was a sweet departure for grad transfer receiver Dylan Collie (6 catches, 124 yards, 2 touchdowns).
It was a proper salute and final exit for senior and hometown boy Tanner Mangum to come in and throw a 41-yard bomb.
It was a flicker of faith for an offense that played without running backs Squally Canada, Lopini Katoa and Matt Hadley and a coming out party for Riley Burt (13 carries for 110 yards, 1 touchdown).
Matt Bushman saved two possible interceptions by simply grabbing the ball from defenders, saying "Not today."
It was a creative tweak for defensive coaches who had to make adjustments for injured Corbin and Isaiah Kaufusi against an offense that scored 28 in a win over defensively stout Northern Illinois.
Coaches played Tanner Jacobson in a “cat and mouse” position as a nickelback linebacker and he stepped up with seven tackles.
In short, it set a much-needed positive trajectory in winter months in what Sitake is trying to sell to win-starved fans, anxious players, future recruits and administration.
“When we find our rhythm and got our fixes, as everyone could see, we played like a well-oiled machine,” said offensive guard Tristan Hoge.
“Oh, man it was way fun out there,” he said. “I’m glad to see Dylan do so well. I can’t say enough about Zach Wilson; he’s so fun to play for and for Tanner to come in before his home fans and family meant everything in the world.”
Hoge said the difference in the game was BYU’s offensive line coming out in the third quarter and dominating. “There was too much stalemating in the first half. We came out the second half and decided we needed to fix ourselves and dominate. I felt we did that, especially in the pass game. When we kept them out of his face and he had time, he can make any throw.”
Hoge said coming off last season and ending with a big win is a “huge springboard” for the team and the program.
It certainly will make winter much easier to live through than a year ago.
BYU rolled up 490 yards, a 9.4-yard average per play and almost 19 yards per pass completion.
True, it was against one of the worst defenses in the country that gave up 42 to a 4-8 Ball State team.
But this was important because BYU eventually did exactly what it should have done against the Broncos: Score crazy-like.
Anything less would have been a disappointing failure.
Scoring 42 second-half points is statement stuff.
Regardless, Wilson’s perfect 18-for-18 passing is phenomenal for any QB, no matter who you are playing.
It broke a BYU record (14 straight completions) set by Steve Sarkisian against Fresno State and San Diego State in 1995 and by Steve Young against Wyoming in 1982. The 28 straight third-quarter points were the most since 2014 against Texas. The 28 in a quarter broke the BYU bowl record set by the McMahon-led, 27-point comeback against SMU in the 1980 Holiday Bowl.
Many good QBs can’t go 18 of 18 in the air. Somewhere along the line, a guy is going to miss, somebody is going to get a tip, he has to throw it away, or a receiver drops a ball.
That never happened.
Even in 19 pass plays, BYU was perfect because Mangum was perfect in relief, going 1-for-1 for 41 yards.
This game was fun because Sitake has long waited for his team to get back to playing BYU football, a brand that puts great stress on defenses — especially bad ones.
Sitake got it for Christmas.41 comments on this story
“I've been trying to let Zach loose for a long time now,” said Sitake. “I think an aggressive style of football is what we need to have on offense and I don't know exactly the change, but I think this was really good for us in the second half to see that when teams are going to be committed to stopping the run, that we have to go other ways to getting points on the board.”
Points with the pass is a good look for BYU.
Really, it truly is.
“I was really proud of Zach. Although he finished perfectly with his completions, I hope he knows it's okay to throw the ball away once in a while. I don't expect him to — I said it in the postgame thing, but I don't expect him to be perfect in 2019, but being close would be really nice," Sitake said.
Amen to that.