For weeks now, as it’s become clear No. 9 BYU would roll past the majority of its opponents during a COVID-19 impacted season, the anticipation grew as the Cougars counted down to a matchup with No. 21 Boise State.

With the opportunity to grab an elusive victory on the Smurf Turf and further enhance its resume, BYU delivered Friday night, beating Boise State 51-17, the most points the Cougars have scored against an opponent ranked in the Associated Press poll.

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Highlights, key plays and photos from No. 9 BYU’s 51-17 victory over No. 21 Boise State

Offense

BYU junior quarterback Zach Wilson already had the attention of both the college football and NFL worlds, and against the Broncos, he was simply brilliant again. His halftime stats were pedestrian by the standard he’s set in 2020, but in the second half, Wilson put on a show.  

In the final two quarters, Wilson completed 10 of 12 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns (he appeared to have a third touchdown pass, but it was recorded as a backward pass and TD run for Neil Pau’u) as the Cougars scored touchdowns on five straight second-half possessions. For the game, Wilson completed 21 of 27 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns for a 213.9 quarterback rating, and he scored his eighth rushing touchdown of the season.

The Cougars’ receivers again came up huge, even when Boise State blanketed BYU’s top two wideouts — Dax Milne and Gunner Romney — early in the game. That opened up the opportunity for Pau’u to have a career game with 75 yards on five receptions, including the touchdown run and a nice catch in tight coverage for a two-point conversion. 

Milne and Romney got going just before halftime, though, and posted strong numbers again, coming up with catch after catch during a 22-point third quarter. Romney finished with a team-high six receptions for 133 yards, while Milne had three catches for 99 yards.

Two other skill players also played key roles: tight end Isaac Rex had five receptions for 45 yards and two third-quarter touchdowns — he now has six touchdowns on the year — and running back Tyler Allgeier ran for a game-high 123 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries. He set the tone early with an 86-yard touchdown on BYU’s third play from scrimmage, as the Cougars finished with 573 yards of total offense. 

BYU wasn’t perfect offensively — the Cougars didn’t score any points off two Bronco turnovers in Boise State territory, gave up a season-high three sacks and were just 2 of 8 on third down — but that second-half performance helped gloss over those issues.

Grade: A-

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Defense

The Cougar defense never let Boise State, which in previous years has built early double-digit leads on BYU at Albertsons Stadium, get into a groove offensively. Through three quarters, the Broncos had 186 yards of total offense — they finished with 310 — behind third-string quarterback Cade Fennegan, a true freshman who took over for fill-in starter Jack Sears, after Sears left with an injury midway through Boise State’s second possession.

The Broncos, with Andrew Van Buren as its lead back in place of an absent George Holani, couldn’t get their running game on track, as BYU controlled the line of scrimmage. Boise State’s longest rush of the night was 10 yards, Van Buren had 45 rushing yards and the Broncos put up 61 yards on the ground with only a 2.3 yards-per-carry average. 

Boise State only scored three points on its first nine possessions, as the Cougars had three sacks, including one on third down from Gabe Summers on Boise State’s first drive after the Broncos had reached the BYU 40. The Cougars finished with four tackles for loss while holding the Broncos to 7 of 18 on third down.  

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BYU also forced a pair of turnovers in Bronco territory, including an interception from true freshman Caleb Christensen and a fumble recovery by Keenan Pili off a forced fumble by Khyiris Tonga. Those plays helped disrupt any rhythm Boise State tried to establish with its young quarterback. 

Pili had nine tackles, tying with Isaiah Kaufusi and Bracken El-Backri for the team lead in that category, and the Cougar defensive front kept the pressure on throughout the night. That allowed the BYU secondary to make plays on the ball and hold three Broncos quarterbacks to a 60.5% completion percentage, and only 55.1% over the final three quarters. 

BYU gave up two long touchdown passes to Khalil Shakir 10 seconds apart midway through the fourth quarter, but otherwise the Cougars did what they needed to defensively in setting the tone all night.

Grade: A

Special teams

It wasn’t the cleanest game on special teams for the Cougars, though there were some highlights.

Kicker Jake Oldroyd nailed a 47-yard field goal to start the second quarter, leaving him a perfect 9 of 9 on the year on field-goal attempts. His school record of consecutive made point-after attempts came to an end, though, as he had one blocked and missed another late.

Punter Ryan Rehkow had a relatively quiet night again with two punts, though his one in the first half was downed inside the Boise 10.

BYU gave up a recovery on an onside kick with just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter — that allowed Boise State to score a touchdown quickly after its first TD of the night — but the Cougars also had a blocked punt — courtesy of Tonga — that led to a short field and BYU’s fourth touchdown of the second half.

Grade:

Overall

Kalani Sitake’s group is showing consistency each week, and this latest game was no exception. The Cougars have the attention of the nation, and while a major sticking point has been BYU’s strength of schedule this season, this performance goes a long way in showing that the Cougars have a formidable team in 2020.

After losing its five previous games to the Broncos in Boise in excruciating fashion, this one is sweet for Cougar fans, coaches and players alike.

Grade: A-