Facebook Twitter

Zach Wilson sets impressive school record as BYU keeps its unblemished record intact

In a convincing win over Western Kentucky on Saturday night in Provo, Cougar quarterback breaks school record for attempts without an interception.

SHARE Zach Wilson sets impressive school record as BYU keeps its unblemished record intact
merlin_2839558.jpg

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson reacts after scoring a touchdown against Western Kentucky at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020.

Yukai Peng, Deseret News

It was another record assault by Zach Wilson and this check mark is an impressive one.

Wilson broke a two-decade-old BYU record for attempts without an interception in Saturday night’s 41-10 Cougars victory over Western Kentucky in LaVell Edwards Stadium.

That’s a mark coveted by quarterbacks at a school that has a long list of All-Americans and a Heisman Trophy winner at that position. The club includes two NFL Super Bowl MVPs in Jim McMahon and Steve Young. Another is Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

The mark Wilson busted belonged to a very talented, albeit spotty career guy named Charlie Peterson. He had 164 attempts without throwing a pick and that effort erased a record set by the legendary McMahon before him.

Throwing interceptions just happens in football, it’s a rite of passage for quarterbacks. You make a bad throw, the ball gets tipped, you misread a defense and put the ball up for grabs. You just simply go blind against zone or man for a moment and it bites you. Sometimes it’s simply nothing but a tremendous play by a safety or a corner and there’s nothing you can do but accept it. 

Picks happen.

Peterson, a Bingham High product, was a tremendous athlete who really should have been given more chances, but he was also injured and that ultimately cost him playing time and a better ending to his career. He basically got one season, 2000.

McMahon. The name alone evokes a whole train of records, highlights and memories.

On this night, Zach Wilson claimed that record with ease while also surpassing the 2,000-yard passing mark on the season. And yes, it was against another cushy opponent that really struggled as BYU scored on its first five possessions.

Wilson finished 18 of 32 for 224 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for another.

The thing about this record by Wilson is he isn’t just dinking and dunking the football — he’s stretching the field and taking shots.

His first quarter 38-yard sideline pass to Gunner Romney was picture perfect. He found and led Romney in full gait and used Romney’s height to put the ball where defender Roger Cray could not get it. It was a pass that epitomizes the kind of highlights Wilson is creating this season. Pinpoint, on time, accurate and with authority and confidence.

His dart to Dax Milne on a post route for a 24-yard touchdown was almost cheating. Milne made a great move inside and Wilson looked him off, coming back to him out of the corner of his eye when Milne made his break. That score put the Cougars up 14-3.

The repeat play to 6-foot-6 Isaac Rex, a fade for a touchdown at the goal line just before halftime, was another bullseye.

Yes, we know, these opponents are undermanned against the Cougars, but it is very hard to make these kind of throws even in practice against air, something legendary receiver Eric Drage pointed out earlier this week.

In his day, McMahon just played around with some pretty sorry WAC competition. He was very good and his system was ripe to pick apart defenses of the time. He did what was expected. When opposing coaches were screaming from the sidelines for holding calls and they got them, McMahon would just laugh as the ball got moved back a chunk of distance.  It just gave him an opportunity to eat up more yards on the drive. And he did.

Wilson’s record streak didn’t last through Saturday night’s game, however. It came to an end on the first possession of the second half when he got himself into one of those situations described above.

Deep in BYU territory, Wilson got a little greedy and attempted a pass from the opposite hash to the far sideline in front of the BYU bench; a difficult toss. Wilson threw it late, it was a bad decision.

He was trying to hit Keanu Hill but under-threw the ball. If it had been Milne or Romney, they may have recognized it earlier and made a play to knock it down or adjust the route, but Hill had kept running his route. This was an easy pick by Dionte Ruffin, a senior corner.

It was the first pick thrown by Wilson since the opener at Navy. That’s a long time ago.

So, Wilson’s new record stands at an impressive 185 attempts without an interception. It extended the mark by 21. It did lead to Western Kentucky’s first touchdown of the game with 3:09 left in the third quarter.

BYU Western Kentucky scoring sum

Scoring summary:

BYU 41, Western Kentucky 10


First quarter

BYU, Tyler Allgeier 2-yard run (10:38), Jake Oldroyd kick

WKU, Brayden Narveson 44-yard field goal (2:24)

BYU, Dax Milne 23-yard pass from Zach Wilson (0:22), Jake Oldroyd kick

Second quarter

BYU, Zach Wilson 5-yard run (12:45), Jake Oldroyd kick

BYU, Lopini Katoa 42-yard pass from Zach Wilson (7:44), Jake Oldroyd kick

BYU, Isaac Rex 4-yard pass from Zach Wilson (00:16), Jake Oldroyd kick

Third quarter

WKU, Joshua Simon 3-yard pass from Tyrrell Pigrome (3:09), Brayden Narveson kick

BYU, Jake Oldroyd 49-yard field goal (0:00)

Fourth quarter

BYU, Jake Oldroyd 45-yard field goal (0:58)

Now for the bottom line to what Saturday night was all about.

BYU is not playing Western Kentucky, Troy, Louisiana Tech or Texas State next week.

The Cougars have never defeated Boise State on their Smurf Turf and the Broncos looked impressive in beating Air Force Saturday with a backup quarterback.

Some of the stuff seen in this Western Kentucky game, like that pick, like a 20-play drive to open the half against BYU’s defense, albeit futile as to getting points there, but it showed some lack of interest by defenders coming right out of intermission.

This kind of schedule can do that to players and it’s been remarkable the Cougars have generally been as plugged in as seen most of this season, easily, as expected, just killing opponents and coasting in the third quarter.

BYU didn’t have a penalty in this game until a minute remained in the third, a hold that brought back a long touchdown run by Tyler Allgeier that would have put the Cougars up 42-10.

Boise State is exactly what BYU and its No. 11 ranking needs right now.

As good as the Cougars looked in this win, they also looked a little sloppy and Wilson certainly will say he owns a part of that.

He came in as a 78% passer on the season and completed 56% against the Hilltoppers. Part of that was that he went down field a bunch. Where he’d been very accurate doing that most of the season, this was the exception, his lowest of the season as was his efficiency rating of 139.7.

The Cougars got another notch in the belt Saturday night, but this week is the most important game of the season for Kalani Sitake.

It’s prove-it time.

Everything else is simply in the books, including Wilson’s latest record.