by Rick Istvan | Zach Wilson and BYU proved on Tuesday it isn’t strength in schedule, It’s strength in will.
UCF was running on empty
Going into Tuesday night, BYU and UCF had two high-powered quarterbacks. The Cougars, led by Heisman hopeful Zach Wilson, and the Knights, led by left-handed QB Dillon Gabriel. Even though the UCF mascot is known as Knightro, the UCF offense looked like it was running on unleaded 87. The Knights had 411 total yards, 217 passing yards, and 194 rushing yards, but these stats were deceiving. If you watched the game you saw first hand how flat UCF looked. For example, those 217 passing yards came on 45 attempts with only 21 completions. This means the Knights only averaged 4.8 yards per pass. On the ground, in order to get 217 rushing yards, UCF needed 43 attempts, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The Knights also relied on four different ball carriers to achieve those stats one of those being Gabriel, himself, who carried six times for 31 yards. If anyone was running on “Knightro,” it was BYU.
The Knights couldn’t defend against Zach’s attack
BYU came into the Boca Bowl with something to prove. After the Cougars turned down the University of Washington’s invite to play a game and then lost to Coastal Carolina, they wanted to show they deserved recognition. With both schools having a potent offense the question became “Which quarterback could go the extra mile?” We learned on Tuesday that QB was Zach Wilson. Not only did Wilson break and set a Boca Bowl passing yards record (425 yards), but BYU’s offense set a total offensive yards record with 656 yards of total offense. Zach Wilson went 26/34 with 425 yards, 12.5 yards per pass average, and three touchdowns. Wilson also carried the ball five times for 12 yards and two touchdowns. BYU’s offense also did a great job protecting the ball, having no turnovers. They went into Florida with the #7 overall offense and UCF with the #2 offense, however, the Cougars left Florida showing who the #1 offense was led by: #1 Zach Wilson.
The Cougars running game was all-geier
Zach Wilson has had an amazing season which has earned him Heisman recognition. However, he couldn’t do it all by himself. The Cougar’s offense has been fierce. The record-breaking numbers put up by the Cougars in the Boca Bowl were a team effort. The Cougars sophomore running back Tyler Allgeier took matters and the ball into his own hands. Allgeier ran the ball 19 times for 173 yards with a 9.1 yards per carry average and one touchdown. He also caught three passes for 60 yards. This was a perfect ending to a season that had Allgeier totaling 1,130 yards on 150 carries averaging 7.5 yards per carry, with his longest rush being 86 yards, and 13 touchdowns. He also finished the season with 14 catches for 174 yards. Tyler Allgeier found holes in the defense all “knight” long.
The receiving “Crew-gars”
Zach Wilson threw for 425 yards against UCF. He did this by completing passes to seven different receivers. Isaac Rex and Neil Pau’u led the pack with five catches each. Rex the freshman tight end led the way with five receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Neil Pau’u also had five receptions for 86 yards and one touchdown. Pau’u also threw one pass which he completed to Zach Wilson for a gain of 16 yards. Junior running back Lopini Katoa, who had seven carries for 21 yards, also had four receptions for 90 yards. Dax Milne the junior wide receiver who is usually Wilson’s favorite target caught the ball seven times for 70 yards and also carried the ball once for seven yards. Tyler Allgeier added to his stats with three catches for 60 yards. Junior wide receivers Gunner Romney and Chris Jackson would each have a single reception. Romney’s reception would go for 12 yards and Jacksons for 11. As mentioned earlier, Zach Wilson would also have one reception for 16 yards which would be thrown to him by Neil Pau’u. The Cougars offense came together to “pack on” the points against UCF.
BYU’s defense put a dent in the Knights armor
In 1799, George Washington said, “…offensive operations, oftentimes, is the surest, if not the only means of defense.” Michael Jordan then shortened that saying to “the best defense is a good offense.” Essentially, if you attack your opponent, they will be so busy fighting off your attack that they won’t be able to attack you. Knowing they had the #2 offense going into the game, this might have been UCF’s strategy. However, it backfired. The Cougars defense was on the prowl and ready to pounce. BYU wasn’t able to get any sacks against the Knights. They did however have three tackles for a loss, four QB hurries, and six pass deflections. Sophomore linebacker Keenan Pili led the defense with nine tackles and senior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi was close behind with eight tackles. Sophomore linebackers Payton Wilgar had seven tackles and Max Tooley had six tackles and a half tackle for loss which he would share with Uriah Leiataua. Earl Tuioti-Mariner, Kavika Fonua, and Bracken El-Bakri all tallied five tackles. Zayne Anderson, Troy Warner and, Zac Dawe all had four tackles with Dawe recording a tackle for a loss. Freshman cornerback Tavita Gagnier would also get a tackle for a loss as well. Even though the Knights had a total offense of 411 yards, the Cougar’s defense would find the weak spot in their armor. UCF would go 9 of 18 on third down and 1 of 3 on fourth down. Most importantly the Cougars would hold the Knights to only 23 points which is the only stat that matters.
What does this win mean for the Cougars?
This win over UCF could be good, bad, or indifferent for BYU.
The good: This win shows that BYU can beat a good team. UCF plays in the AAC and has played some good teams this year. Recently UCF almost beat the University of Cincinnati. The Bearcats are ranked #7 overall in the CFP standings. The Knights also blew out Tulane who was ranked #24 at the time.
The bad: BYU has a lot of senior leaders who might be leaving for the NFL or graduating. This was kind of a “free,” season eligibility wise for the players. However, most of the NFL prospect players will likely declare for the draft. This win might give BYU the respect they deserve and even change their schedule. At this point though all their top players might be gone. The younger players that have been performing need to continue and others need to step up.
Indifferent: This win could do nothing for BYU one way or the other. It was a great win that should be celebrated and enjoyed by the Cougars and their fans. However, the NCAA, CFP, and FBS might not even blink an eye.
Either way, let’s just enjoy the here and now and see if Wilson can win the Heisman. When all is said and done, will he find himself headed to the NFL on a J.E.T…Plane?
Featured image via AP Photo/Jeff Swinger