No. 9 BYU validated with first-ever win at Boise State
BYU Football got its first win in program history at Boise State on Friday night in a 51-17 victory over the No. 21 Broncos to stay unbeaten at 8-0 and strengthen its case for a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl.
“This was a team win,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “We want to be aggressive and play a good, team football game. I’m really proud of the effort we saw from our boys. We knew it would come down to the trenches and being physical.”
BYU led after just two plays on offense when Tyler Allgeier found a gap deep in Cougar territory and ran the ball 86 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest run by a BYU player since Mike Hague ran for an 87-yarder vs. UNLV in 2006.
Boise State was forced to turn to its third-string quarterback early in the first quarter when starter Jack Sears left the game with an apparent head injury. He was replaced by Latter-day Saint returned missionary Cade Fennegan from Dallas, Texas. Fennegan’s father, Garth, was a quarterback at BYU in the 1990’s.
Following Allgeier’s touchdown, the teams exchanged field goals, with Jake Oldroyd drilling a 47-yard attempt to give BYU a 10-3 lead. The Cougars forced the first turnover of the game with an interception by Caleb Christensen, but the offense struggled to move the ball and got a turnover on downs.
BYU’s defense was able to hold Boise State to a punt and Zach Wilson found his confidence on the ensuing drive. He hit Gunner Romney on a back-shoulder throw and then Lopini Katoa broke off a 15-yard run to move the Cougars upfield. Dax Milne drew a pass interference in the end zone to bring BYU to the goal line, and Wilson ran it in for his eighth rushing touchdown of the season.
“We adjusted to what they did and decided to stretch the field a little more,” Wilson said on the offensive improvement. “I put the ball in the receivers’ hands to score.”
The momentum carried over to the second half, as the Cougars opened up the third quarter with an impressive passing display from Wilson. He completed 38-yard passes to both Milne and Romney, and then found Isaac Rex in the end zone to put BYU up 23-3.
Milne topped his previous game-high with an impressive 39-yard grab on the following drive, setting up a 20-yard touchdown reception for Rex, his second of the night. Wilson found Neil Pau’u in the end zone on the two-point attempt to go up 31-3 midway through the third quarter.
Boise State brought out its fourth-string quarterback, Andy Peters, on the following drive, but the BYU defense was once again able to hold the Broncos to a punt.
Wilson found Pau’u for his longest reception of the night, a 28-yarder, on the following drive, and then Katoa ran it in 20 yards for his first score of the night. BYU took a 38-3 lead into the fourth quarter.
Khyiris Tonga and Max Tooley blocked a punt on the first Boise State drive of the final period, and Pau’u capped off the ensuing BYU drive with his first touchdown of the night to give BYU its largest lead of the night, 45-3.
Boise State wasn’t done, however, completing back-to-back scoring drives thanks to an onside kick and touchdown passes from Fennegan to Khalil Shakir to get them up to 17 points on the night.
Wilson came back out and silenced any doubters, however, completing a 42-yard bomb to Romney to set up a goal-line rushing touchdown from Allgeier and extend the lead to the final margin of 34 points.
Wilson finished the game with 359 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-27 passing, while adding another score on the ground. Allgeier led the run game with 123 yards and two touchdowns, while Romney crossed the century mark for the fourth time this season with 133 on just six catches, for an average of 22.2 yards-per-catch.
“We’re just focusing on right now, and that’s a big win for us right now,” Wilson said. “It means nothing unless we keep winning.”
The Cougars have just two games remaining on their schedule currently, with a two-week break before welcoming FCS opponent North Alabama to Provo. While no plans to add any more games have been announced, Sitake and the players said they would be ready and grateful to play more games.
“(Athletic Director Tom Holmoe) told me to have the team ready for 12 games back in August. So we’re ready to play 12 games,” Sitake said.
The Cougars will play at least 11 games this season, as a prestigious bowl game, likely to take place on Jan. 1, is sure to find this special BYU team.