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Big stage, big performance by Zach Wilson in blowout win over Boise State

With a lot of attention and pressure on a game between No. 9 BYU and No. 21 Boise State, BYU quarterback comes up big in second half.

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1) delivers a pass as BYU and Boise State play a college football game at Albertsons Stadium in Boise on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson delivers a pass as BYU and Boise State play at Albertsons Stadium in Boise on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Zach Wilson delivered a huge TKO in Prime Time on Friday night.

His resume simply got more bloated.

In BYU’s biggest test of the season, quarterback Zach Wilson took over a 16-3 game in the third quarter, lit a fuse and watched the game explode on national TV, a 51-17 blowout for the No. 9 Cougars (8-0) over No. 21 Boise State (2-1).

Wilson put on a dazzling display of pin-point passing after intermission. Some 32 NFL scouts in the booth were likely reaching for their Hi-Liters.

If this didn’t lift Wilson’s first-round NFL draft status, nothing else he’s done this season will.

Wilson finished 21 of 27 (.778) for 359 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 213 efficiency rating and his yards per completion was a whopping 17. It was the first time in school history BYU scored more than 50 on a ranked foe. He ran for another TD, giving him 29 touchdowns responsible for, best in the nation.

In this regard, Wilson did against the ranked Broncos what he’d basically done against BYU’s seven previous opponents.

“Zach deserves all the attention he’s getting,” safety Troy Warner told BYUtv afterward. “And the offense is playing out of their minds.”

With the game needing a statement by someone, in a boring first half with few fireworks from Wilson’s arm, the junior turned into “The Greatest Showman.” He was money, as in an open bank account, no collateral needed.

BYU went conservative most of the first half when Boise State’s outstanding secondary kept Dax Milne and Gunner Romney at bay and pressured Wilson, sacking him three times.

Milne and Romney had just one catch for 4 yards on the first four possessions, then had six catches for 173 on the next four.

That’s floodgate material. And added to Wilson’s lore.

That barrage of points and yards simply gassed the Broncos. They were done with a quarter to play.

“A big part of our offense is making big plays and taking shots. We were conservative the first half and opened it up the second,” said Romney.

Once that firepower hit Boise State’s defense, BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes spread out the defenders and let Wilson do his thing.

Milne averaged 33 yards on his three catches. Romney averaged 22 on six.

After intermission, Grimes, who may have been accused of going soft on BSU with play calls early, feeling his way to a squishy 13-point lead after the Broncos had to tap into their third- and fourth-string quarterbacks, opened up the playbook. Wilson answered with 38 straight points to lead BYU to a 45-3 lead.

The Wilson-led barrage, combined with a fired-up Cougar defense that forced two turnovers, hit Boise State like a hammer on an anvil. Boise State hadn’t trailed in a game at halftime on their Smurf Turf since 2005.

In the third quarter, Wilson threw caution away and let Milne and Romney make plays on the ball. They responded like a Fifth Avenue consortium.

“We made adjustments, decided to stretch the field, called more drop backs and put the ball in the hands of the receivers to make plays,” said Wilson.

It took just two possessions and Wilson had BYU up 31-3 halfway through the third quarter, a blowout in the making.

Wilson opened up the second half with a pair of 38-yard passes to Milne and Romney to set up a 5-yard TD flip to tight end Isaac Rex.

On the next possession, Wilson again hit Milne for 39 yards to set up a 20-yard wide-open TD pass to Rex. On that play BYU sent Milne in motion to the sideline, which drew BSU’s defense to the former walk-on like a magnet.

The beatdown was on.

In defense of Boise State, the Broncos did finish the game with a fourth-string QB and had no firepower. With only late TDs to show in the game, BYU simply wore down Boise State’s defense and Wilson took advantage.

The win ended BYU’s futility (0-5) at Albertsons Stadium with three heartbreakers that went to the wire.

“They were the better team,” said BSU star receiver Khalil Shakir. “They came out on all cylinders and it showed.”

The Cougars gained 573 yards, 359 through the air and 213 on the ground. It was the worst home defeat by Boise State since installation of that crazy blue turf and the first loss at home by more than 20 since 2001 to Washington State (41-20).

Wilson said after watching film of the last two BYU games against Boise State, it showed BYU is a much better football team now than then.

“We wanted to keep the energy up, we had some tricks up our sleeves but they were great, a very good team and we had to react to what they were giving us,” said Wilson.

The win also solidified BYU’s momentum toward remaining in the top 10 and perhaps a New Year’s Six bowl.

That’s pretty lofty, even in a COVID-19 season.