Milestones, win streak on the line as BYU faces Western Kentucky

The No. 11 BYU Cougars have everything to play for in Saturday night’s Halloween matchup against Western Kentucky, while the 2-5 Hilltoppers have very little to lose.

“There’s no pressure there,” WKU head coach Tyson Helton said. “The whole world thinks they’re supposed to come out there and go put 50-something on you and dominate you and make you look bad. So what’s there to lose, you know?” 

On the other hand, BYU is trying to maintain its spotless record and go 7-0 heading into a Top-25 matchup with Boise State on Nov. 6. Zach Wilson and company have plenty to work for in this weekend’s home showcase.

Zach Wilson throws in warm-ups before the Texas State game on Oct. 24. Wilson needs eight more throws without an interception to set the BYU record. (Preston Crawley)

‘Strength, touch and accuracy’ 

Wilson is one of college football’s most exciting players and has attracted new praise from the likes of Super Bowl XVII champion and 1983 NFL MVP Joe Theismann, who said the BYU quarterback, “has excellent arm strength, terrific touch & is really accurate.

“He’s just fun to watch,” Theismann said of the projected first-round draft pick and Heisman contender leading the BYU offense.

Wilson demonstrated his NFL-caliber arm strength with a 45-yard touchdown pass to junior wide-out Dax Milne against Texas State on Oct. 24 that traveled closed to 65 yards in the air. Wilson is currently the highest-graded quarterback in college football on throws of 20-yards or more downfield, one of many reasons why he is ranked third in the latest Heisman watchlist from Pro Football Focus. 

“This particular guy, you can tell he’s a big student of the game,” WKU head coach Tyler Helton said about Wilson. “He goes above and beyond to master his craft and to be the best he can be. When you face guys like that, it’s kind of a chess match.” 

Wilson is just eight throws away from setting a new BYU record of 166 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. The previous record of 165 was set by Charlie Peterson in 2000.

Race to 1,000 

Wilson may be the key piece leading this BYU team, but his wide-receiver corps has some serious talent as well. Milne and fellow junior Gunner Romney are both just shy of the 1,000-yard mark for career receptions.

Milne, BYU’s season leader in receiving yards, has 993 career receiving yards, while Romney has 995 heading into Saturday night’s matchup with the Hilltoppers.

Dax Milne hauls in a pass against Texas State on Oct. 24. Milne needs just seven more receiving yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for his career. (Preston Crawley)

Milne has hauled in 37 receptions for 639 yards and five touchdowns so far in his breakout season, while Romney has missed some time since leaving the Houston game early with an injury. It is unclear whether or not Romney will play for the Cougars on Halloween. Milne will likely reach 1,000 yards first seeing as there are no signs of him missing time against WKU.  

Big-time stops 

It would be disrespectful not to highlight BYU’s dominant defense. The Cougars have made several major stands this season, including a fourth-down stop on their own 10-yard line in the last game against Texas State following a bad snap from the BYU offense. 

BYU’s defense has forced three-and-outs on 31.9% of opposing drives this season. In addition, the Cougars have forced three fumbles, five interceptions and have one defensive touchdown so far this season.

Isaiah Kaufusi runs toward the end zone after an interception against Texas State on Oct. 24. The Cougars have five interceptions on the season. (Preston Crawley)

Mascot matchup

This may be the two schools’ first-ever meeting on the gridiron, but it is their second matchup overall in 2020. The first came in the SiriusXM Mascot Bracket Championship when Cosmo the Cougar and Big Red from WKU went head to head in a Twitter poll to see who was the nation’s best mascot. Cosmo won the first matchup on social media and now it’s up to the Cougar football team to win the second.

The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN beginning at 8:15 p.m. MT on Oct. 31. 

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