The Cougars returned to the NCAA FBS postseason with a commanding 49-18 win over the Western Michigan Broncos in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The Broncos became bowl eligible for the fourth time in five years, with their most notable bowl game in 2017 against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. The game was part of the “New Year’s 6,” known for being the top six major NCAA Division I bowl games. The Broncos fell 24-16 to the Badgers.
Freshman quarterback Zach Wilson was the story of the day, completing all 18 of his passes before senior quarterback Tanner Mangum took his place in the fourth quarter. Wilson’s 18 consecutive passes would be good enough for the second most consecutive passes completed in bowl game history, just one shy of the record set by Georgia’s Mike Bobo in 1998.
In addition to his perfect completion percentage, Wilson threw for 317 yards and four total touchdowns. Wilson finished with an impressive 321.3 passer rating and his near-perfect game garnered attention from major sports reporting outlets, including ESPN.
Western Michigan came out firing with an impressive drive that brought the team just outside the BYU red zone. Facing a crucial fourth and two from the BYU 21, the Cougar defense pulled off a big stop to keep the game scoreless early on. Linebacker Sione Takitaki led the BYU defense with five tackles during Western Michigan’s opening drive.
BYU got lucky after another defensive stop later in the first quarter, as the Bronco’s kicker shanked a kick toward the BYU sideline. The kick only registered nine-yards before going out of bounds and would put the Cougars on the Bronco’s 27-yard line.
It took Zach Wilson two plays to get BYU on the board as he connected with senior wide receiver Dylan Collie for a 26-yard touchdown pass in BYU’s sixth play of the game.
Later in the half, the Cougar offense was caught sleeping when the Broncos interfered with a BYU reverse that forced a fumble. This proved costly for the Cougars as on the ensuing drive, Bronco running back Jamauri Bogan would turn a broken fourth and short into a 33-yard touchdown run, making the game even. The Western Michigan offense would later convert on a field goal and led 10-7 going into the locker room.
Wilson had a near-perfect first half, going 8 for 8 through the air for 95 yards and rushing for 19 more. Collie led all BYU receivers with 38 yards on two catches, while Takitaki led the charge on defense with 12 total tackles.
It only took Wilson three plays to regain the lead in the second half as he connected with Collie for his second touchdown of the afternoon after a 48-yard pass to Neil Pau’u.
The third quarter was BYU’s best quarter on offense of the season, as the Cougars put up 28 points to take a 35-10 lead into the fourth and final quarter. Tanner Mangum saw the field for his last time as Cougar, coming on with just over six minutes remaining in the game. On his first pass, in typical Mangum fashion, he threw a 41-yard pass to Collie, who was also playing his last game as a Cougar. This was later topped off with a Brayden El-Bakri 1-yard touchdown run.
BYU’s defense held strong throughout the game, allowing only 313 total yards. Takitaki finished with a game-high 19 total tackles, 11 higher than the next best tackler. The Cougars held Western Michigan to just a 38.1 percent conversion rating on third downs while having six tackles for loss.
Collie, Aleva Hifo, Dax Milne, Riley Burt, El-Bakri and Dayan Ghanwoluku all recorded touchdowns on the afternoon, with Collie being the only player to score two.
BYU finished the season with a 7-6 record and a win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The bowl game brought head coach Kalani Sitake’s career record to 20-19 while at BYU football’s helm.