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BYU’s Zach Wilson says he won’t opt out of bowl game, will decide after season about turning pro

Cougars’ star junior quarterback says only thing on his mind is beating San Diego State on Saturday to send 15 seniors out on a winning note

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson throws a pass during the Cougars’ game against Troy at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.
BYU photo

In a day and age when some star college football players opt out of bowl games to keep themselves healthy for the NFL draft, Zach Wilson said Wednesday that particular thought has never entered his mind.

“Not at all,” BYU’s junior quarterback told the Deseret News during a Zoom meeting with reporters after the Cougars’ third practice of the week. “I am here to ride with my boys all the way through. That’s the goal. We started with this team back in my freshman year in 2018 and had a 7-6 year, another 7-6 year, and now we are finally doing some good things.”

Wilson also said Wednesday that he won’t decide until after the season whether he will turn professional or return to BYU in 2021, although almost everyone close to him has said he is as good as gone.

“Yeah, it is hard to say. I think when the time comes, after the season is over, I will have a pretty good idea of what to do,” Wilson said. “Really, the plan for me now is to finish up this week, get into a good bowl game, compete, win the bowl game, and then it really goes from there.

“Right now my plan is to come back next year,” he continued. “I really haven’t thought about it, because all my focus is with these boys, and I really think when the time comes, I will know what to do.”

What Wilson is currently thinking about, he said, is that the No. 18 Cougars (9-1) play host to “a really, really good” San Diego State team (4-3) on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8 p.m. MT, ESPN2) that defeated them 13-3 last year in San Diego.

“We are hungry for one more (win),” Wilson said. “I think the biggest key is these guys are good. They have lost a couple games, but you take (their record away), and these guys are a good team. They are hard to score on. They don’t give up a lot of points.”

Not only are the Cougars motivated to get revenge for last year’s loss at Qualcomm Stadium when they failed to finish drives time and again, but they believe beating a quality opponent such as SDSU might get them into a better bowl game and partially remove the sting of losing 22-17 to undefeated Coastal Carolina last Saturday.

They owe it to each other to finish strong, and finish together, Wilson said.

“I think it would show my kind of character (was lacking) if I dropped out,” he said. “I would never do something like that to these guys. They mean the world to me and I am going to give them everything I have and play as long as I can and worry about everything else in the future.”

Speaking to local reporters for the first time since throwing for 359 yards and a pair of touchdowns in BYU’s 51-17 win over Boise State on Nov. 7, Wilson also discussed the fateful final play against the Chanticleers in which his housemate Dax Milne was stopped a yard short of scoring the game-winning touchdown, the incident just before halftime that almost started a bench-clearing melee, and several other topics.

  • On the final play: “They were defending the end zone. We were in a tough spot there. … Dax is beating up on himself for not getting into the end zone. I thought he did a great job of winning on the route. There wasn’t much (else) to see. Besides we called the play to go to Dax. … I am proud of the way we battled at the end with 54 seconds left and no timeouts. It shows the character we have with these guys. But (the last play) really has nothing to do with the loss.”
  • On Coastal Carolina defensive end Jeffrey Gunter repeatedly knocking him to the ground after he threw an interception as time expired at the end of the first half:

“I think they had planned that out before the game: ‘If we get a turnover, find the quarterback.’ And you know, it happens. Guys do that. There is no problem in that. It is the intent of what they were trying to do that was really the issue — you know, slamming me to the ground. Tackling me. It wasn’t blocking. If it was blocking, I would be perfectly fine with it.

“Either way, it happens in football. Can’t complain about it. It happens. We have to move on from it. That was one of those teams that liked to talk a lot. And they do it on purpose. It is an energy thing for them. They come out and they talk crap and they try and get into your head. We respect that. It is what it is and a lot of teams are like that.”

  • On playing better against SDSU after committing three turnovers and failing to get in the end zone last year: “I wouldn’t say it is about redemption. I would say having one loss is way better than two, right? So I think that’s the key for this week is we don’t want to end our regular season that way. For us, I thought we did a good job of actually moving the ball last year. … I remember we threw for over 300 yards in that game and you know we did some things, but we couldn’t score. That’s the focus, is higher execution and get the ball into the end zone, not settle for field goals, not settle for getting stopped inside the 5-yard-line this week.”
  • On giving the seniors a proper send-off: “These are some of my close friends that I have been with ever since I got here. It is crazy to think this is the last time that we are going to be playing together (at home). It is really not only the seniors. It is the whole team in general. We will never have this same team again. We have had something special this year and so you really just want to end on a high note.”