Playing football is a privilege in this 2020 year of a germ.

And to show its gratitude, fired-up, highly motivated BYU captured the show in a nationally televised opener at Navy, dominating the Midshipmen 55-3 before a Maryland state-mandated empty Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

You’d have to search long and hard to find a more lopsided BYU win over a storied triple-option program.  

Check that, maybe any team.

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It was BYU killing UTEP circa 1980. That it came over a Ken Niumatalolo-coached team was an even bigger shocker.

It was a shellacking.

It was the most business-like BYU win in a decade. That it came during a time of 2020 distractions made it even more impressive.

You wonder how BYU felt about having the Pac-12 and Big Ten cancel their marquee games with the Cougars? Navy found out fast, like in the first few plays. Navy never stopped BYU starters and didn’t score until Kalani Sitake emptied his bench late in the third quarter with a 48-0 lead.

Tyler Allgeier, a former linebacker, had career highs for carries, yards, touchdowns and an almost 10-yard per carry night (14 for 132, 2 TDs). Lopini Katoa added 80 yards on 10 carries and scored three touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Gunner Romney romped through Navy’s defense with four catches for 80 yards and a TD.

Zach Wilson? Well, he didn’t have to do much; he completed 13 of 18 passes with two touchdowns and a pick that registered a knockout 206 efficiency rating.

Last week I caught up with two legacy BYU football players in a Mexican restaurant in Orem — Jim Herrmann and Lee Johnson — who played on BYU’s 1984 national title team. Johnson’s NFL career included stops with the Oilers, Browns, Bengals, Patriots, Vikings and Eagles. Herrmann earned checks from the Dallas Cowboys and Bengals.

Asked if they saw the Cougars in fall camp, they said not on the field, but they did peek in on practices from the balcony of the Student Athletic Building.

And?

Scoring summary:
BYU 55, Navy 3


First quarter


BYU, Tyler Allgeier 34-yard run (10:07), Jake Oldroyd kick


BYU, Lopini Katoa 39-yard run (7:16), Jake Oldroyd kick


Second quarter


BYU, Lopini Katoa 15-yard pass from Zach Wilson (13:31), Jake Oldroyd kick


BYU, Jake Oldroyd 22-yard field goal (5:00)


BYU, Lopini Katoa 1-yard run (0:08), Jake Oldroyd kick


Third quarter


BYU, Gunner Romney 45-yard pass from Zach Wilson (13:05), Jake Oldroyd kick


BYU, Tyler Allgeier 17-yard run (7:10), Jake Oldroyd kick


BYU, Jake Oldroyd 34-yard field goal (3:09)


Navy, Bijan Nichols 48-yard field goal (0:54)


Fourth quarter


BYU, Jackson McChesney 9-yard run (7:26), Jake Oldroyd kick

Both claimed BYU’s offense looked as good as any they’d seen back in the good old days because of the returning players, especially the offensive line, QB and running backs. 

The defense? Both said the Navy game option wouldn’t be a real test of increased pressure defense with a newly designed four-man front, but it was a wait-and-see deal.

Their cred cards are shiny.

What you saw in Annapolis, as far as the Cougars could travel to the East Coast, is Jeff Grimes’ offense dominate a veteran Navy defense, scoring on five of its first six possessions for a 31-0 lead.

It was the second-largest deficit after two quarters by a Navy team under Niumatalolo.

They’ll say Navy didn’t get physical and tackle hardly at all in fall camp due to COVID-19 concerns. Apparently a healthy BYU team did. And played healthy.

On defense, the Cougars looked as disciplined and assignment sound as any the school has produced in years. And yes, it took advantage of an inexperienced Navy senior quarterback Dalen Morris and rebuilt offensive line.

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A veteran Cougar offensive line dominated Navy’s front seven, putting Midshipmen safeties in a real dilemma as blockers for Katoa and Allgeier created shields, seams and generally pushed Navy defenders so effectively that Wilson merely had to order some popcorn and watch things unfold.

So dominating was BYU’s run game, Arizona RB coach AJ Steward took to Twitter to praise his replacement, Cougar running back coach Harvey Unga. “My brother @unga45 has done a great job preparing these RBs! These guys are playing hard and making plays! Absolute clinic tonight! Much love and respect toko!”

Indeed.

BYU’s backs ran with great vision behind blockers who blocked out the stadium lights.

Navy’s defense returned seven starters from a unit that ranked No. 10 nationally as run stoppers in 2019. They had no answer for the Cougars’ run game.

BYU added to its halftime 304 to 48 total yardage advantage on the first possession of the second half when Wilson found Gunner Romney open on a short route in the flats. Romney turned it upfield and sprinted for a 45-yard touchdown to complete an 83-yard drive.

The Cougars gained 580 yards and yielded 149. BYU’s offense ran 71 plays for an 8.2 average.

Regardless of the circumstances of BYU losing a highly loaded schedule, Navy was its most respected fill-in answer. Next up, Army is considered with Houston as BYU’s biggest remaining challenges.

On this night, Sitake showed his dance moves. Grimes has his guys ready. Ilaisa Tuiaki who’d never coached against the triple-option, had an absolute career night as a defensive coordinator.

BYU was overly prepared for this opener. Navy never knew what hit them.

And it was beyond fun looking at a college football game.

Gratitude.