PROVO — Absolutely no rust showed in Zach Wilson after BYU took nearly three weeks off. He was as good Saturday in cutting apart Troy’s defense as he was in dissecting Navy in the season opener a very long time ago.
Wilson threw it long, dumped it short, lobbed it over a defender to Isaac Rex for a second-quarter touchdown that was nothing but a perfect touch-target pass while running to his left.
On this night he was money with an unlimited bank account in leading BYU to a 48-7 win.
This after stretches of no team practices, assembling in “pods” for workouts, and a game canceled due to COVID-19 after a flare-up on the squad.
On Wilson’s second pass of the second half, he looked off Troy defenders then found Dax Milne wide open for a dagger 70-yard touchdown pass. That score put the Cougars up 31-7 in what turned out to be a rout.
Regardless that it was Troy and he had plenty of time to execute and read, Wilson’s performance was more than just the numbers.
Wilson has worked his tail off since walking off the field in a bowl loss at Hawaii. And it shows in every aspect of his game.
Wilson kept driving to San Diego periodically in the offseason to work with former Cougar and NFL QB John Beck, now part of a guru throwing motion coaching service whose clients include numerous NFL and college stars.
Wilson, who is healthy for the first time in his BYU career after arriving in Provo with a damaged shoulder that required surgery after his freshman year, has assimilated a very efficient throwing motion. His footwork is outstanding, creating balance as he steps into his throws. The result is more accuracy in every throw he tries and he’s got heat on demand when needed.
Mechanically, Wilson is better than he’s ever been in his college career.
When Wilson found Milne for that bomb, he was 17 of 20 for 316 yards, with two touchdowns passing and one by a run.
Wilson completed 23 of 28 passes for 392 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for two others. His pass efficiency rating was 223, his second time with a rating over 200 this shortened season. It was Wilson’s new career-high in passing yards (331) with a previous high of 317 vs. Western Michigan in 2018.
Troy elected to play man coverage on BYU’s receivers and didn’t mix it up much. That made things easier for Wilson because he could read the coverage early and he was fast doing so.
If there was no defense in front of Wilson, you could still make some of the same observations in Wilson’s throwing acumen, just breaking down his mechanics. He’s taken a few steps forward in his craft from a technical standpoint.
BYU 48, Troy 7
BYU, Masen Wake 1-yard run (1:26), Jake Oldroyd kick
BYU, Zach Wilson 1-yard run (11:03), Jake Oldroyd kick
BYU, Isaac Rex 10-yard pass from Zach Wilson (1:49), Jake Oldroyd kick
Troy, B.J. Smith 2-yard run (1:05), Evan Legassey kick
BYU, Jake Oldroyd 54-yard field goal (0:00)
BYU, Dax Milne 70-yard pass from Zach Wilson (14:27), Jake Oldroyd kick
BYU, Zach Wilson 2-yard run (3:50), Jake Oldroyd kick
BYU, Masen Wake 10-yard run (14:54), Jake Oldroyd kick
BYU, Jake Oldroyd 20-yard field goal (7:30)
As is BYU’s offensive tradition for the past 40 years when fielding quality quarterbacks against man coverage, numbers can become obscene because there are big plays aplenty to be made.
Wilson didn’t fail to deliver against that kind of coverage.
He constantly hit receivers in the seams and could tell when routes were going to become open before breaks and cuts.
After going to the bench following Masen Wake’s second touchdown run to put the Cougars up 45-7 five seconds into the fourth quarter, Wilson’s numbers were gaudy.
Again, these numbers might not be posted against the original September schedule of Power Five teams including pesky Utah, Minnesota, Arizona State and Missouri. We will never know.
But the carnage was complete.
When Wilson sat down after three quarters for the second time in this month’s only two games, the carnage was shared with some receivers who, again, made huge plays.
Milne, who muffed a punt and dropped a sure third-down pass that would have extended an early drive, had seven catches for 140 yards and one touchdown. Gunner Romney, who came in leading the nation in yards per catch, had five for 138 for a 27.8 -yard average.
That’s some major chewing going on against man coverage.
Milne had a 70-yard catch and Romney a 53-yarder.
It was impressive to see, even against Troy.
And even with no crowd for the first time since World War II, it didn’t seem to matter at all.