PROVO — After fourth-string quarterback Joe Critchlow — who was really the second-stringer for this particular game — took a knee a couple of times in the final two minutes inside Idaho State’s 5-yard line and BYU accepted an invitation from an ESPN representative to play in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, the public address announcer reminded fans that the Cougars’ next home game is on Sept. 12, 2020, against Michigan State of the Big Ten.

If the Cougars, who buried the Bengals of the Football Championship Subdivision 42-10 in a contest that was actually more competitive than the final score suggests, hope to continue their winning streak at LaVell Edwards Stadium, they will need to play considerably better than they did Saturday.

Sparty is no cupcake, even if it is struggling this season, like the Bengals were, and don’t need $450,000 to visit LES, either. Michigan State will be looking for revenge, after falling 31-14 to BYU in East Lansing in 2016, head coach Kalani Sitake’s first season.

“There are some things we need to work on,” Sitake acknowledged after the Cougars committed 12 penalties in a sloppy, uninspired performance on Senior Day. Coaches said they wanted to see a “clean performance” but watched as the Cougars did the opposite.

Mistakes like the ones BYU had in front of an announced crowd of 57,379 on a gorgeous mid-November day at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains would be acceptable — if it were the first game of the season and the Cougars were playing an opponent such as Utah or Washington. But not the mighty Bengals of the Big Sky, now 3-8 and on a five-game losing skid.

“There were some mistakes that we made in all phases, but for the most part the guys worked hard and played hard and they were able to get the win,” Sitake said.

It was another unsatisfactory win — for those yearning for steady improvement — for the second-straight week after the Cougars held off Liberty 31-24 last Saturday.

The offense was shaky early, the defense — mostly backups, granted — gave up too many big plays in the second half, and special teams was solid except for suddenly unreliable Jake Oldroyd missing his only field goal attempt, a 38-yarder that he used to make in his sleep the first few games of the season. And punt returner Dax Milne, filling in for Aleva Hifo, called for a fair catch on his own 3-yard line.

“There were some mistakes that we made in all phases, but for the most part the guys worked hard and played hard and they were able to get the win.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake

With sophomore Zach Wilson returning from a fractured thumb and getting his first start since Sept. 28, the Cougars sputtered mightily on their first three possessions against an ISU defense that gave up 59 points to Montana, 45 points to Idaho, 59 points to Southern Utah and 48 points to Eastern Washington since the beginning of October.

The Cougars finished with 449 yards.

False starts sabotaged their first two drives, and a holding penalty on the third possession negated a big gain by Micah Simon and, subsequently, led to Wilson getting sacked to force the third punt. The Cougars scored on their fourth possession but still had to overcome a holding penalty and two more false starts.

“I mean, it was rough at times,” said Wilson, who was not nearly as sharp as he was in his first five starts and finished 19 of 31 for 187 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. “I think overall as an offenses we can be better. There were a lot of penalties today, a lot of (missed assignments). I think we have to clean up a lot of things this week, but we got that win. That’s all that matters.”

Those mistakes will matter against San Diego State in two weeks, but the Cougars (6-4) can probably get away with them next week at woeful UMass (1-10), arguably the worst team in the FBS.

Was Wilson too rusty, having not played in seven weeks?

“It’s no excuse,” he said in the postgame news conference, to which receiver Talon Shumway replied: “I thought he played well.”

Shumway certainly shined, catching five passes for 41 yards and two touchdowns in his final home game. Actually, BYU’s receivers were solid — there were no egregious drops. The same can’t be said for the offensive linemen and tight ends/fullbacks, who committed several penalties that negated big gains.

“They were doing some confusing stuff up front,” Wilson said. “They were shifting and stemming the D-linemen. Some of their D-linemen were yelling ‘move’ and it was causing our guys to react to the noise and jump a little bit.”

Wilson’s passer rating was a respectable 162.0 after he threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Shumway to give the Cougars a 35-3 lead on their first possession of the second half, and some believed that he would be done for the day. Maybe he should have been, because the entire offense fizzled after that, while playing without senior star Hifo and sophomore RB Lopini Katoa.

“I thought overall we did some good things,” Wilson said, crediting Simon (seven catches, 76 yards) and Shumway for making some great grabs. “We didn’t start well, or even have a great second half. But we had a lot of promising drives and scored 42 as a team, so ….”

Defensively, seniors Austin Lee and Dayan Ghanwoloku recorded interceptions, and Lee returned his 26 yards for the first pick six of his stellar career. Idaho State finished with just 271 yards, well below its average of 402.

But the Cougars gave up three big plays, which accounted for 125 of ISU’s yards.

“It was important that we got a lot of guys reps on defense,” Sitake said. “They made some mistakes. We gave up some big plays. That big touchdown run is something I wish we didn’t give up, but I don’t know any other way of getting them valuable reps, and getting them experience, aside from getting them in the game.”

Malakai Rango’s up-the-gut 54-yard touchdown run in the third quarter against mostly BYU reserves was the Bengals’ first TD in eight quarters.

“We will hold them accountable,” Sitake said of the mistakes. “I think that’s the only way you can do it. … It was unfortunate. But I don’t know how to teach those guys lessons other than I can show them on film and embarrass them later for their mistakes.”

There were also a lot of fun moments, such as defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga’s 2-yard touchdown run and the first career receptions by freshmen Carter Wheat and Keanu Hill. And Critchlow got in a game for the first time in two years and was 5-for-5 for 58 yards and robbed of a TD throw to Hill.

And Sitake got to yell “aloha” to the crowd when the bowl bid was extended.

And Wilson was able to get in another shot at the state of Idaho, saying he would rather go to a bowl game in Hawaii than return to the Gem State.

That was a perfect ending to the day — even if the Cougars’ performance against an inferior opponent fell far short of that.