Zach Wilson needed extra weapons late Saturday night in what should be his home finale as a BYU star quarterback.
He got them in the form of Lopini Katoa, Dax Milne, Neil Pau’u, Jake Oldroyd and Isaac Rex. He also got them from a BYU defense that woke up just before halftime and found a way to slow down San Diego State’s ball-hogging run offense.
Wilson entered the game without his leading rusher, Tyler Allgeier (illness), and his deep threat big-play receiver Gunner Romney (likely concussion). He couldn’t afford mistakes, had to make the most of his possessions, and needed to get playmakers involved.
BYU scored 28 points on SDSU’s top-10 defense on a night temperatures dipped below freezing and the field was dusted white and frozen in spots. Wilson? All he did was complete 25 of 34 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns.
He looked poised, determined and efficient. A guy putting the finishing touches on his own Cougar Picasso of a season. It is the first time a QB has started every BYU game since 2013.
Wilson stood in the pocket midway through the fourth quarter nursing a 20-14 lead. SDSU’s pass rush, which had bothered him most the evening, was encroaching toward him. But he waited until he saw big 6-foot-6 freshman tight end Rex get to his mismatch against an Aztec defender and launched the ball.
It was a perfect strike. The throw utilized the extra length of Rex and his remarkable reach. Rex responded by laying himself out, stretching out his body and arms to haul in the touchdown. Moments later, Katoa caught a two-point conversion pass from Wilson and the Cougars led 28-14, doubling the lead on SDSU in two and a half quarters of play.
This has been the strangest year in modern human history and it’s been absolutely a wreck of a sports season, in particular, with the NCAA Tournament, the NBA playing in a bubble, and cancellations all over college football.
But on this night, BYU got in 11 football games, improving to 10-1 as the No. 14-ranked team (AP).
It must be said, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe worked miracles in getting this team a schedule back in August and credit must go to the Mountain West Conference for allowing SDSU and Boise State to step in and help out.
The Aztecs and Broncos don’t play and the Cougars get nine games and are left wanting.
BYU beat those two teams 79 to 31.
These two MWC teams stepped up to play when Power Five programs were told to cancel and refused overtures to play the Cougars as makeup games. Yes, Washington said they’d play, but they knew they wouldn’t actually do it.
BYU 28, San Diego State 14
BYU, Dax Milne 5-yard pass from Zach Wilson (10:56), Jake Oldroyd kick
SDSU, Kaegun Williams 25-yard run (5:56), Matt Araiza kick
SDSU, Elijah Kothe 15-yard pass from Jordan Brookshire (3:08), Matt Araiza kick
BYU, Isaac Rex 2-yard pass from Zach Wilson (8:34), Jake Oldroyd kick
BYU, Jake Oldroyd 50-yard field goal (0:00)
BYU, Jake Oldroyd 29-yard field goal (5:47)
BYU, Isaac Rex 20-yard pass from Zach Wilson (10:53), Lopini Katoa pass from Zach Wilson
In the first-ever December game in LaVell Edwards Stadium, SDSU toyed with BYU’s defense, forcing it out of its comfort zone, but it answered just enough times to get Wilson the ball to do his thing.
When it really, really counted, BYU’s defense forced two turnovers, both of which resulted in BYU scores, and stopped SDSU on downs twice in the fourth quarter, the second of which was at the end of the game on the goal line.
That didn’t happen last week at Coastal Carolina, a painful end to a perfect season.
BYU’s defense didn’t allow SDSU to score in the final three quarters. That proved big.
Katoa made the most of his chance, toting the ball 13 times for 83. Milne caught seven balls for 87 yards and a TD and Pau’u also had eight catches for 117 yards. Rex caught his 10th TD of his freshman career, one of the most productive scoring tight end years in more than a decade.
All the drama, all the talk, all the hype, all the statistics seemingly manufactured out of thin air when nothing was given, BYU’s football team battled.
The result is the first 10-win season in nine years. One that ended on essentially frozen tundra.