BYU quarterback Zach Wilson was watching the Georgia-Alabama game on television Oct. 17, a night after he had thrown for 400 yards to lead the Cougars past Houston 43-26 when a graphic popped on the screen showing Wilson and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence as leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
“It was cool it popped up,” Wilson said Wednesday after practice in a video teleconference with reporters who cover BYU. “It is kinda one of those things you never get used to. It popped on the screen and I was like, ‘woah, that’s weird.’ Why are they showing this in this Georgia-Alabama game?’ So, it is cool.”
Cool can also describe the way Wilson is handling the talk of him being a Heisman contender midway through the pandemic-altered 2020 season. Teammates and coaches say the junior doesn’t really like to talk about it, and defers praise as much as he can.
Wilson, who appeared on ESPN’s College Football Playoff Show on Tuesday night, told local reporters that he is using all the hype and accolades coming his way as a confidence-builder going into each week. The No. 11-ranked Cougars (6-0) host 2-4 Western Kentucky on Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m,. MDT, ESPN)
“You really don’t read into it too much because it comes as fast as it goes, right? We have seen that before. They will love you one week and they will hate you the next,” Wilson said. “We are grateful for where we are as a team, Everyone has contributed and everyone has bought in.”
Wilson also deflected the Heisman talk to his teammates, saying it is a “team award” and wouldn’t be happening if the Cougars weren’t undefeated and in the national rankings.
“It is a dream (to be considered),” he said. “It is a blessing, for sure. But I always tell the guys on the team this when they bring it up: It is really a team award. No one is winning the Heisman if you are losing games.”
He said he couldn’t be rated as one of the top quarterbacks in the country right now if the offensive line wasn’t giving him great protection.
“I mean, shoot, I haven’t been hit all year,” he said.
He said receivers such as his roommates Dax Milne and Brayden Cosper and Gunner Romney are having sensational seasons as well. He even credited BYU’s defense, ranked No. 13 in the country in fewest yards allowed.
“If I don’t have that time in the pocket, if I don’t have receivers going up and high-pointing balls, coming down with it, or defense making a stop after I fumble a snap on the 10 yard line, if I don’t have a defense that stops them on the 10, I wouldn’t be in that conversation,” he said, referring to his mishandled snap during BYU’s 52-14 win over Texas State last Saturday.
“So I tell these guys all the time that it is really a reflection of our season so far as a team. I think we have that confidence and swagger, so really it is great to be a part of it, because it is a team award,” he continued.
Wilson is listed in the top five in most Heisman preseason lists, usually behind Lawrence, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle, another early Heisman candidate, sustained a season-ending ankle injury while returning the opening kickoff against Tennessee last week and is out of the running.
Wilson said he knows the talk comes and goes with each game, and he declined to compare himself to the other quarterbacks in the running.
“I focus on myself and things I can improve on,” he said. “The others are great players. … But I try not to compare myself to other people.”
Wilson is currently second in the country in passing yards (1,928), third in yards per attempt (11.98) and fourth in passing efficiency (210.4). He said yards per attempt is one of the statistics he’s most pleased with because it shows the Cougars have the ability to “land big shots” this year and have a high completion percentage doing it.
“Again, that’s not me,” he said. “Our receivers and tight ends are catching everything.”
Wilson has attempted 157 straight passes without an interception, the second-longest streak in BYU history. Only Charlie Peterson (164 passes) had a longer streak.
“It has been super enjoyable,” Wilson said of the Cougars’ start and his own success. “Our connection on the team is better than it has ever been.”